As the great recession continues to devour jobs at an

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As the Great Recession continues to devour jobs at an alarming rate, talesare legion about the millions of unemployed struggling to right their livesand recover their self-esteem. But what happens to those left behind?Would it surprise you to learn that survivors can suffer just as much, if notmore, than colleagues who get laid off? It certainly surprised a team ofacademic researchers who embedded themselves at Boeing from 1996 to2006, a tumultuous decade during which the company laid off tens ofthousands. The results of the study will appear next year in a YaleUniversity Press book called Turbulence: Boeing and the State ofAmerican Workers and Managers. "How much better off the laid-off werewas stunning and shocking to us," says Sarah Moore, a University ofPuget Sound industrial psychology professor who is one of the book's fourauthors. "So much of the literature talks about how dreadfulunemployment is.""EXECUTIONER'S LAMENT"By early 1996 the researchers were busy interviewing and testing 3,500Boeing employees--from line workers to senior executives. The timing waspropitious. Struggling to adapt to new technology and competition fromEurope's Airbus, Boeing in 1997 merged with McDonnell Douglas. Overthe next six years, Boeing's workforce of 234,850 shrunk 33%, to 157,441.With each round of layoffs, the survivors hustled to reinvent themselves.They re-proved, re-auditioned, and repositioned, only to watch yet anothernew manager--pushing the fad du jour--parade through the door.Employees who had once seen themselves in every plane that flew
IM ch. 15: Organizational Structure   15overhead were now trading in gallows humor. As in, "Dead workerwalking."Human resources specialist Frank Zemek was the researchers' maincontact. In an interview, he recalled "the survivor's guilt of the people whowere left, who were waiting and not knowing if the hatchet was going to fallon them. They experienced the worst stress."As more manufacturing was outsourced, workers said they no longer feltas if they were building planes. They were simply snapping them together.They obsessed about the loss of institutional knowledge. Managers whohad fired people, meanwhile, confessed deep, pervasive grief--whatresearchers sometimes call "executioner's lament." Moore says theytended to become emotionally numb and disengaged.In the greatest surprise of all, the researchers discovered that the people whohad been laid off often were happier than those left behind. Many had newjobs, even if they didn't always pay as well. Over and over, Moore says,average depression scores were nearly twice as great for those who stayedwith Boeing vs. those who left. The laid-off were less likely to binge drink,often slept better, and had fewer chronic health problems.The researchers say that thanks to the unceasing uncertainty insideBoeing, those who left felt as though they had escaped a bad marriage. Atthe time one Boeing employee told researchers: "You feel better whensomeone takes their foot off your neck."Today morale has improved at Boeing, Moore says. Yes, the company's

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