Survivor's guilt a real problem for workers that remain


As a young man, I worked in a factory which had 2,000 employees at the time I was hired, and less than 500 by the time I left. I was there through the recession of the early 1980s, and watched as my co-workers were laid off by the hundreds. Each round of downsizing left those of us who had dodged the Turk more stressed and depressed.

While I don't mean to compare my experience to that of the soldier who loses his buddies in battle, survivor's guilt is a good description for what goes through the mind of someone who keeps his job while his coworkers are cut free. This condition is one of many workplace hazards that can affect you on the job.

Every time the grime reaper passed me by, I realized again just how much fear I had been harboring -- fear of the unknown, fear of the damage to my self-image that comes with the loss of a job, fear for my family members who would share in my hardship.

I was also disturbed to see sent to the pavement co-workers who I knew to be diligent and productive workers, and it made me question my own worthiness. Why should I have kept my job when those I considered my betters were losing theirs? And since so many of them were young men and women with small children at home, their need made me feel doubly guilty.