Exploring layoff survivors' experiences of organisational support, wellbeing and commitment in various Namibian fishing companies
This study focused on the well-being and organisation-employee relationship of layoff survivors within the Namibian fishing industry. While the majority of research focusses on laid-off individuals, fairly little attention is given to layoff survivors. These employees are faced with a restructured working environment with many intense pressures which often leads to emotional distress, high turnover, and a wide range of behavioural and emotional responses. Simultaneously, industries, such as the fishing industry, experience frequent periods of downsizing due to the nature of their trade. Surprisingly little research has been done within the African context and no studies as to the knowledge of the author have been done on Namibian layoff survivors. The general objective of the study was to explore the experiences of Namibian employees who survived a layoff intervention in various fishing companies in terms of their perceived organisational support, subjective well-being, psychological well-being and commitment. The study consisted of the following two articles: Article 1: An exploration of the psychological and subjective well-being of layoff survivors within various Namibian fishing companies Article 2: An exploration of employee-organisational interactions of layoff survivors within various Namibian fishing companies. A qualitative, descriptive research approach which was grounded in a social constructivist research tradition was used in this study in order to achieve the objectives. Post-modernistic methods were used to obtain information based on the experiences of the layoff survivors. The research design and approach allowed participants to express and describe their experiences as they perceived them. The selection feature of the sample was employees who survived a layoff within the previous three years in organisations which have laid-off at least 10% of their workforce during that period. A combination of voluntary purposive and snowball sample of 14 (N= 14) participants for both Article 1 and Article 2 were drawn from four organisations within the Namibian fishing industry. Semi-structured, one-on-one interviews which covered a wide variety of topics for both articles was conducted with each participant from the sample. Data analysis was conducted by means of directed qualitative content analysis and an eight-step process as created by Zhang and Wildemuth (2009). For Article 1, two categories of findings were created, which were subjective and psychological well-being. Respectively, three and four themes were found for each category with several subthemes also identified. The results for Articles 1 indicated that both subjective and psychological well-being of layoff survivors are diminished following the layoff event. Subjective well-being was greatly impacted both by the event itself and thereafter by the restructured working environment. The themes identified for subjective well-being were: satisfaction; emotions; and judgements on others. Psychological well-being of layoff survivors was also negatively affected by the layoffs however to a lesser extent than subjective well-being. The themes identified for psychological well-being were: autonomy and environmental control; growth and purpose; relations with others; and limited self-understanding. The results confirmed numerous findings from foreign studies however many foreign findings could only be partially confirmed, with results of the present study often experienced as less severe than as presented within foreign studies. Furthermore, it appeared that the participant's personal lives and the industry itself also influenced the well-being of the layoff survivors. For Article 2, two categories of findings were created, which were perceived organisational support and commitment. Respectively, two and three themes were found for each category with several subthemes also identified. The results for Article 2 indicated that the perceived organisational support and commitment of layoff survivors was reduced following the restructuring. The perceived organisational support was influenced by the loss of colleagues, reward structures and reduced remuneration. The themes identified for perceived organisational support were the layoff survivor's altered role in the organisation; and reduced employee support. The survivors' commitment to the organisation also seemed to decrease with many participants indicating that they would be willing to change organisations if it resulted in improved support. The themes identified for commitment were: A slightly reduced affective commitment; decreased continuance commitment; and low normative commitment. Results of the Article validated numerous foreign studies and showed that the principles of Social-Exchange Theory and the Norm of Reciprocity play a crucial role in the layoff survivor's commitment and support. While the support directly provided by organisations do not necessarily decrease, the loss of social support and relationships from laid-off colleagues, and lack of communication cause the perception to layoff survivors that they are not well supported. Limitations of the articles and recommendations to future research and practice were made.