Healing the Wounds

Bill Coffin


November 1, 2009

HealingthewoundsBy the early 1990s, the corporate world was learning the hard way that the long-standing expectation of working for the same company for 40 years until retirement then coasting into a nice, fat pension was a thing of the past. As millions of workers were fired during various waves of layoffs, they entered unfamiliar professional and psychological territory that gave rise to feelings of betrayal, resentment, insecurity and depression.

But unexpectedly, these feelings were also felt by those who retained their positions as well as the managers conducting the layoffs-a phenomenon that degraded performance across the board. David M. Noer, a professor of business administration and leadership at Elon University in North Carolina and a leadership consultant, calls this "layoff survivor sickness." His recent book Healing the Wounds is his manual on how to spot it, treat it and prevent it.

The book was initially published in 1993 and has recently been rewritten and re-released. But unlike many other business books re-released to take advantage of current conditions in the business world, Healing the Wounds actually feels relevant and helpful. Some of its advice might seem trite or touchy-feely, but this is a work that genuinely looks at the mental stress of laying people off, the costs that come with it and the hard work that needs to be accomplished by everyone in the organization in order to recover from it as a group. It has been a rough year for all of us-particularly those individuals who have been fired amidst the economic downturn-so there are surely many professionals who could benefit from a book like this.
Bill Coffin is a freelance writer and former editor in chief of Risk Management.