The downsides of downsizing: communication processes and information needs in the aftermath of a workforce reduction strategy
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Communication is a major factor in determining the efficacy of organizational change. In particular, practitioner oriented literature has recommended the extensive use of communication tools to mediate the negative effects of downsizing. This study explored the impact of downsizing on levels of uncertainty, coworker and management trust, and communicative effectiveness in a health care organization (HCO) downsizing over a twoyear period from 660 staff to 350 staff. Self-report data were obtained from employees who were staying (survivors), and from those who were being laid off (victims), and from employees with and without managerial responsibilities. Results indicated that downsizing had a similar impact on the amount of trust that survivors and victims had for management. However, victims reported feeling lower levels of trust towards their colleagues compared to survivors. Contrary to expectations, survivors and victims reported similar perceptions of job and organizational uncertainty, and similar levels of information received about changes. Employees with no management responsibilities and middle managers both reported lower scores than senior managers on all aspects of information received. Implications for practice and the management of the communication process are discussed.