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Layoffs leave HR managers stressed

HYDERABAD: The recession has thrown up curious trends. Well, it's not just those who have been laid off or those fearing it who are seeking psychiatric help to overcome the trauma and related stress, but professionals carrying out the dirty work of sacking their colleagues are the latest to be knocking on the doors of counsellors.

Referring to a phenomenon unfolding across metros in the country, doctors say that over the last few months, professionals , particularly from the software sector, have approached them seeking help for insomnia, anxiety and depression . "There are three kinds of cases coming to us. First is the set of people who have lost their jobs, a second set comprises those are anxious that they would lose their job and the third set of people are those carrying out the sacking work. The third set is fairly significant in number," says Dr Harish Shetty, social psychiatrist and also president, Counsellors Association of India.

Psychiatrists in the city point out that the rise in the number of such cases may be just around 5 per cent, but it is the profile of patients that has changed and the nature of their ailments. "In the last three months, I have had two cases of Human Resource (HR) managers from the software sector complaining of severe stress. In both cases, they believed that employees in their company were talking about them," says Dr Challa Venkat Suresh, consultant psychiatrist, Yashoda Hospitals. 

"HR managers like to be popular in the organisation, organising fun events, handing out fat increments. So, I think the stress is more to do with their role clarity," says Varda Pendse, director, Cerebrus Consultants . She says she has herself come across many managers who are insecure about their own jobs even as they demand better productivity and efficiency from their colleagues and teams.

Psychiatrists say that team managers who have been asked to draw lists of people from their groups who can be laid off have approached them with guilt-ridden depression. "Most Indian managers find it difficult to ask people to leave," says Pendse.


"HR managers like to be popular in the organisation, organising fun events, handing out fat increments. So, I think the stress is more to do with their role clarity," says Varda Pendse, director, Cerebrus Consultants . She says she has herself come across many managers who are insecure about their own jobs even as they demand better productivity and efficiency from their colleagues and teams.

Psychiatrists say that team managers who have been asked to draw lists of people from their groups who can be laid off have approached them with guilt-ridden depression. "Most Indian managers find it difficult to ask people to leave," says Pendse.

However, some like Shiv Agrawal, CEO, ABC Consultants , say that most senior professionals are mature enough to understand that they are messengers of the company and not responsible for the layoffs. But he does say that there could be cases where these professionals are stressed. "They are looking out (for jobs) like other professionals ," Agrawal says.

While these cases trickle in, recessions' first victims continue to seek help. "If earlier we got more cases of psychosis and obsessive compulsive disorder, now patients are complaining more of anxiety and depression. I am handling five cases of Satyam employees for the last few months, one of whom is suffering from depression," says Dr Minhaj Naseerabadi, consultant psychiatrist with Shadan Hospital. He says that the age group of the patients is around 30 to 35 years and their stress is largely related to jobs and finances.

And while managers are feeling guilty of exerting pressure on their staff, the employees are stressed over being unable to meet their targets. "They fear they will not be able to meet their targets. This leads to complaints of sweating and palpitations," says Dr Aftab Ahmed, physician, Apollo Hospitals.