Rice industrial and organizational psychologists available to discuss tech layoffs

Photo of laid of employees.

In recent months, the tech world has laid off tens of thousands of people , news that has made headlines around the globe. Rice University industrial and organizational psychologists are available to discuss the situation.

Rice psychologist Eden King is available to discuss how employers can soften this blow — if not avoid layoffs altogether.

“First, consider — and communicate about — all alternative options for saving costs, such as forgoing board member compensation, offering reduced work hours or operational changes,” she said, adding that employers should also give employees a chance to provide additional ideas and suggestions.

Photo of laid off individuals.
Photo credit: 123rf.com

“Second, be transparent about how and when layoff decisions will be determined and conveyed so that employees can understand and prepare,” she said.

“Third, provide clear, direct and compassionate information to employees who are and who are not being laid off,” she added, noting that ambiguity and uncertainty will only worsen and prolong stress.

“Finally, employers should follow up immediately with tangible resources such as continuation of health benefits, severance (pay) and placement services,” she said.

King is the Lynette S. Autrey Professor of Psychology at Rice. She studies the equitable and effective management of diverse organizations and has more than 100 scholarly publications to date. Her research has been featured in the New York Times, on “Good Morning America” and in Harvard Business Review. She has also consulted on projects related to climate initiatives, selection systems and diversity training programs. More information on King is available online at https://profiles.rice.edu/faculty/eden-king.

Rice psychologist Margaret Beier said corporate layoffs are stressful for all employees but can hit older workers particularly hard.

“Even though older workers have plenty to offer organizations, it becomes increasingly difficult for laid-off workers to find new jobs after the age of 50,” she said.

Beier said that some of this difficulty stems from age-related stereotypes.

“For example, organizations tend to think that older workers are expensive, that they are unwilling and unable to learn new roles, and that an investment in them may not pay off given the limited remaining time before retirement,” she said. “But most stereotypes concerning older workers are not supported by research. In fact, once hired, older workers tend to stay longer at organizations compared with younger workers. Moreover, older workers can bring many skills from previous jobs that can generalize to new roles — e.g., managing customers and people, managing projects — and, even though they may have lower self-efficacy for learning new things compared with younger employees, they can and do continue to learn up until - and beyond - retirement.”

Beier noted that technology is rapidly changing the types of jobs that are available and the tasks that workers perform every day, and because most older workers in the U.S. have not saved enough for retirement, they must participate in training to acquire the skills they need to remain employed and employable.

“Older learners may need more time in training relative to younger workers, but they will respond well to well-designed training — e.g., training adapted to their existing skills and abilities,” she said.

Beier is a professor of psychological sciences. She studies lifelong learning and development and predicting success for adults in organizations and educational settings. She has authored more than 100 journal articles and book chapters and is a fellow of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology and the Association for Psychological Science. More information on Beier is available online at http://beier.rice.edu/.

For more information or to schedule an interview with King or Beier, contact Amy McCaig, senior media relations specialist at Rice, at 713-348-6777 or amym@rice.edu.