Survivors' reactions to layoffs: We get by with a little help for our friends

Joel Brockner, Steven Grover, Thomas Reed, Rocki Dewitt, Michael O'Malley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The research reported here used a multimethod approach to investigate the effects on survivors-i.e., the individuals who remain after a layoff has taken place-of their prior identification with and the organization's compensation to those laid off. Based on a justice theory framework, we hypothesized that survivors would exhibit the most negative reactions (from an organizational perspective) when they identified with the layoff victims and when they felt that the victims had not been well compensated. These two independent variables were manipulated in a laboratory study in which work performance served as the dependent variable. A field study was also used to survey employees who had survived a major layoff in their work organization. Included in the survey were measures of the independent variables, as well as the dependent variable: survivors' change in organizational commitment, relative to the pre-layoff period. As expected, survivors reacted most negatively when they identified with layoff victims who were perceived to have been inadequately compensated. The negative reaction took the form of reduced work performance in the lab study and lowered organizational commitment in the field study. Explanations, theoretical and practical implications, and avenues for further research are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)526-541
Number of pages16
JournalAdministrative Science Quarterly
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1987
Externally publishedYes


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