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Healing the Wounds

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Table of Contents

Preface. PART ONE: THE SHATTERED COVENANT. 1 Forgotten Survivors: What Happens to Those Who Are Left Behind. Lessons from Act One: Juanita and Charles Victim and Survivor. The Basic Bind: Lean and Mean Leads to Sad and Angry. Metaphor of the Surviving Children. Acts One and Two: A Family Legacy. Issues to Be Explored. Definitions. Learnings and Implications. 2 Changing Organizations and the End of Job Security. From Assets to Costs: The New View of Employees. From Nurturing to Violence: The Symbolism of Layoff Language. From Long Term to Short Term: The Shrinking Planning Horizon. From Synergistic to Reductionistic: Taking Apart Is Better Than Putting Together. Layoff Survivor Sickness: The Legacy. Learnings and Implications. PART TWO: THE SURVIVOR EXPERIENCE. 3 Learning from the Past: The Survivor Syndrome Across Time. The Saga of No Toes, the Gunslinger. Universal Survivor Linkages. Lifton's Model of Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Survivors. Learnings and Implications. 4 Speaking for Themselves: Layoff Survivor Stories. Organizational Characteristics. Research Methodology. Job Insecurity. Unfairness. Depression, Stress, and Fatigue. Reduced Risk Taking and Motivation. Distrust and Betrayal. Optimism. Continuing Commitment Lack of Reciprocal Commitment. Wanting It to Be Over. Dissatisfaction with Planning and Communication. Anger over the Layoff Process. Lack of Strategic Direction. Lack of Management Credibility. Short-Term Profit Orientation. Sense of Permanent Change. Unexpected Findings. Learnings and Implications. 5 Time Does Not Heal All Wounds: The Effects of Long-Term Survivor Sickness. Stress, Fatigue, Extra Workload, Decreased Motivation, Sadness, and Depression. Insecurity, Anxiety, and Fear. Loyalty to Job (Not Company), Nonreciprocal Loyalty, and Self-Reliance. Sense of Unfairness and Anger over Top Management Pay and Severance. Resignation and Numbness. Lack of Management Communication. Helpful and Communicative Managers. Honest Communication. Short-Term Plans and Strategy. Layoff Process Problems. Resentment Over Being Made to Feel Guilty. A Look Back from the Second Act. Learnings and Implications. PART THREE: INTERVENTIONS FOR HEALTHY SURVIVAL. 6 A Four-Level Process for Handling Layoffs and Their Effects. Layoff Survivor Feeling Clusters and Coping Strategies. The Four-Level Intervention Model. Learnings and Implications. 7 Level One: Manage the Layoff Process. Clean Kills and the Survivor Hygiene Factor. Redundant Communication Is Essential. What to Communicate. Control Traps That Block Communication. Balancing Feeling and Thinking. Tell the Truth, and Never Say Never. Two Denial Traps. Process Research. Learnings and Implications 8 Level Two: Facilitate the Necessary Grieving. The Burden of a Heavy Bag. A Team Intervention. An Attempted Systemwide Intervention. A Small Business Visioning Intervention. A Departmental Wake. Empowering Leaders Through Models of Change. Learnings and Implications. 9 Level Three: Break the Codependency Chain and Empower People. Dagwood s Prescient Stand. Codependent Relationships Organizational Codependency. Detachment. Letting Go. Connecting with a Core Purpose. Learnings and Implications. 10 Level Four: Build a New Employment Relationship. The Global Context of the New Reality. From Long-Term to Situational Employment Relationships. From Rewarding Performance with Promotion to Rewarding Performance. with Acknowledgment of Relevance. From Paternalistic to Empowering Management Behavior. From Toxic Fidelity to Healthy Self-Responsibility. From an Implicit Career Covenant to an Explicit Job Contract. Elements of Explicit Contractual Relationships. Learnings and Implications. PART FOUR: THE LEADERSHIP WAKE-UP CALL. 11 Requisite Leadership Competencies They Don't Teach in Business School. Choose the Right Wolf to Feed. Avoid Layoff Leadership Traps. Behave Courageously. Let Go of Outdated Managerial Commandments. Don't Listen to Chicken Little. Learnings and Implications. 12 Rethinking Loyalty, Commitment, and Motivation: The Long and Painful Birth of the New Reality. Ten Old Paradigm Commandments Reframed. Putting the Pieces Back Together: Reintegrating the Busted Culture. Learnings and Implications. 13 Developing the Right Leadership Stuff. Developing Philosopher-Kings: Learning from Plato. Intrapersonal Insight. Interpersonal Confidence. Core Skills and Relevant Models. The Global Context of New Paradigm Leadership. Learnings and Implications. 14 Life After Downsizing: Revitalizing Ourselves and Our Organizations. The Top Ten New Reality Managerial and Employee Roles. Fragile Choices. The Existential Act of Choosing Freedom. Learnings and Implications. References. Acknowledgments. The Author. Index.

About the Author

David M. Noer is an honorary senior fellow at the Center for Creative Leadership and professor emeritus of business leadership at Elon University. He consults extensively throughout the world on downsizing, coaching, and leadership development. He is the author of numerous books, including Breaking Free from Jossey-Bass. Previously he edited the OD Practitioner and served on the board of trustees of the Organizational Development Network. You can contact David Noer at


Many books have emphasized self-help for the layoff victims of organizational downsizing but do not talk about the feelings of those who were lucky to keep their jobs. Noer, the vice president of a leadership center, takes a new approach to addressing the needs of both the survivors and the organizations. He suggests that while it is good that organizations provide services for the victims, the layoff process should include help for the survivors, who are often expected to increase productivity without any transition. The book is arranged around examples of the old employee-employment contract, survivors' testimonials, and how companies and individuals can change their working relationships for the new employment order. Noer uses a mix of modern psychology and organizational theory, but the ideas appear fresh and are packaged well. Recommended for all business collections.-- Rebecca A. Smith, Harvard Business Sch . Lib.

"You've survived a round of layoffs (or two or three) at work. So why do you feel as bad as if you'd been laid off yourself? You might be suffering from what author and consultant David Noer calls "layoff survivor sickness," a toxic blend of anger, survivor guilt, fear and anxiety that can cause sleepless nights, sinking morale and plummeting productivity." ( , September 24, 2009)

Recently, as Noer notes, organizations from public to private to nonprofit have ``embarked on a frenzy of layoffs.'' In this outstanding study, a major contribution to business literature, the author maintains that these layoffs have eroded the trust between employees and employers and have created a new managerial paradigm: ``Organizations that once saw people as assets to be nurtured and developed began to view those same people as costs to be cut.'' Noer ( Jobkeeping ) cogently addresses the violation of the old employment covenant of secure, paternalistic rules. Further, he notes, while those who are dismissed are usually offered counseling services, those who remain are left to cope with their anxiety and distress and the dismantled corporation, a process Noer terms ``layoff survivor sickness.'' He also suggests how companies should downsize, stressing the importance of compassion, communication and the acknowledgment of codependency, in which employees derive their self-worth from their role in the organization. (Oct. )

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