“Quiet cutting”: survivors suffering from “survivor’s syndrome”

"Quiet cutting": survivors suffering from "survivor's syndrome"

After massive hiring during the Covid-19 pandemic, several American companies are announcing the loss of hundreds, even thousands, of jobs. Others are restructuring, which leads some employees to be reclassified internally. A strategy that the main stakeholders sometimes liken to “quiet cutting”.

After “quiet quitting” and “quiet firing”, welcome to the era of “quiet cutting”. This English expression, recently coined by the Wall Street Journal, designates a downsizing that does not say its name. It’s about offering a different position to an employee in a context of massive departures, secretly cherishing the hope that this new assignment will push him to surpass himself… or, on the contrary, to walk out. In the latter case, “quiet cutting” prevents the employer from initiating yet another dismissal procedure, even if the rules for parting with an employee are more flexible in the United States than in other countries. , including France.

Drastic restructuring

In recent months, several American firms including Adidas, Adobe, IBM and Salesforce have reorganized their payroll instead of laying off with a vengeance, according to the Wall Street Journal. They are not the only ones to opt for this strategy: American employers announced 23,697 job cuts in July, a decrease of 42% compared to the previous month, according to the consulting firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas Inc.

But these restructurings are not always welcomed by “surviving” employees, who fear that they will be accompanied by a deterioration in their working conditions. Others fear being locked into a new position that they did not choose and for which they are not made, or of being considered ungrateful if they refuse this opportunity. “I felt like I was being told, ‘We appreciate everything you’ve done enough not to fire you, so you can either make the best of this or find another job somewhere else.'”Matt Conrad, an American employee who has experienced two reassignments in two years, told the Wall Street Journal.

Beware of survivor syndrome

While the impact of restructuring on those made redundant is obvious, it is taken into consideration much less among employees who remain in the reconfigured company. Yet it is just as real. Demotivation, stress, professional disengagement and feelings of guilt are all symptoms of what is called the “survivor’s syndrome”. This expression appeared in the 1960s to designate the emotional state of survivors of the Second World War. However, it is increasingly used to designate the malaise that grips employees who have escaped a wave of layoffs—all things considered, of course. People who suffer from it feel overwhelmed by negative feelings despite their “survival” of an initial plan, which impacts their productivity—even when the objective of a restructuring is to restore the level of performance and competitiveness of ‘a company.

This is where the complexity of restructuring lies: it induces a radical change in the working environment, which can profoundly destabilize the remaining employees. Add to that the fear that this strategy is, in fact, an insidious form of “quiet cutting” and you end up with a reduced and demoralized workforce. But it must be kept in mind that any reclassification does not hide the employer’s desire to push its employees to resign. A reassignment can be an opportunity to acquire very useful skills if you decide to apply for a position that you have really chosen, and not that has been imposed on you. Whether in the newly reorganized company or elsewhere.