Survivors of downsizing: A study of the extent to which downsized organizations engage in work redesign

Date of Completion

January 2000


Business Administration, Management|Education, Adult and Continuing




This study examined whether organizations follow a planned approach to work redesign to improve the productivity of survivors of downsizing, thus contributing to solving the problem of poor financial performance. This study was a single site study the data for which were gathered primarily by interviewing a New England financial services organization employees. This organization, with employees country-wide, has experienced many downsizings. ^ The framework for this study was the Hackman and Oldham Work Design Model. According to this model, three conditions, or psychological states, are necessary for internally generated levels of strong and sustained productivity. First, the employee must perceive the work as being meaningful and worthwhile. Second, the employee must be responsible for the results of the work. Third, the employee must have knowledge of the results of the work. There are five core job characteristics which elicit these three psychological states: skill variety, task identity, task significance, autonomy and feedback. If present, these core job characteristics have a higher potential for internally motivating people who do those jobs. ^ The three research questions of this study were: (1) How, if at all, was the work redesign process planned and implemented in organizations concurrent with, or subsequent to, downsizing in those organizations? (2) In what, if any, ways were any or all of the five core job characteristics (skill variety, task identity, task significance, autonomy and feedback) included as part of the redesign of the new jobs? (3) When downsizing and/or when redesign occurred in what, if any, ways were the skills, knowledge and competencies of surviving employees taken into consideration and matched with the redesigned jobs? ^ The findings based on the research questions were: Work redesign-related planning was not part of the downsizing activities. After downsizing where changes had taken place in jobs, these changes were driven more by organizational structure change rather than by work design. After downsizing, the matching of people and jobs was not done successfully in all cases. ^ Overall, this study highlighted the need for organizations considering or implementing downsizing to approach survivors proactively by planning and designing their work to improve organizational productivity and improved financial performance which triggered the downsizing effort in the first place. ^