Consultants can ease the pain for laid-off white-collar workers

September 07, 1992|By Marilyn Adams | Marilyn Adams,Knight-Ridder News Service

As the recession and economic restructuring continue to cut a swath through the white-collar work force, many companies are hiring specialized consultants to soften the blow.

Counselors who offer "career transition" services say corporate shutdowns and downsizings have generated a demand for their work.

Such consultants help laid-off managers and executives cope with their loss and learn how to search for a new job in a tight economy.

Employers who hire such consultants help not only those laid off. They also help the frightened ones who fear that they might be next.

"Companies are not just doing this to be good guys," said John Gaffin, a consultant who is president of HR Associates in Miami. "It's important to what the survivors think. I call it 'survivor management.' "

Employees are more productive and loyal to an employer who laid off workers with compassion, he said. Companies who help laid-off workers also reduce their potential liability from age, sex or race discrimination actions, because employees who find new jobs suffer less and have fewer grounds for complaint.

Mr. Gaffin and other consultants say white-collar workers whose jobs are cut or whose companies shut down are less prepared for unemployment than are non-professionals. "Many have not really sought a job in years because such jobs are usually filled by referral," he said. "Emotionally, they may be harder hit than other types of workers because they've never been laid off before."

"We see people come in in denial, in shock, looking backward," he said. "This counseling helps them to start looking forward."

Laura Jack, a personnel consultant, said fired workers "make their biggest mistakes in the first 24 hours. They say all the wrong things."

Today, mass mailing of resumes "just doesn't work," she said. "You must become a person."

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