With recent reports of continued imminent downsizing from such firms as Cisco ( CSCO), Harley-Davidson ( HOG), Boeing ( BA) and AT&T ( T), the leadership challenge of managing the environment after layoffs is greater than ever.

While it is natural and admirable to focus a great deal of effort on ensuring that those who are leaving are treated fairly and with respect, it is often the lack of engagement and focus on the part of the remaining workforce that endangers the company as much as a loss of resources.

Organizational psychologists call this phenomenon "layoff survival syndrome," while others refer to the employees left in the company after a layoff as "layoff refugees." No matter what you call it, the feelings and consequences of post-layoff stress in an organization are as real and damaging as any other business issue. These outcomes include:

Anger: Leaders often assume that employees whose positions are not terminated will be grateful for their survival. This opinion actually fuels the discomfort that leads to employee anger because they are likely to be glad they still have their jobs, but they are not grateful about the changes that occurred nor the additional workload the changes created. In most cases, they didn't want the layoffs , so expecting some kind of thank-you in the end is unrealistic and patronizing.

Illness: In a December 2008 MSNBC.com article "Guilt and Stress: Layoff Survivors Suffer Too," Jodi Prohofsky, senior vice-president for CIGNA Health Solutions says, "You'll get a lot of people that clearly identify that they're having more physical symptoms: stomach aches, colds, more illness. Their immune system is down."

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