Layoffs and the Survivor Syndrome – A Field Experiment
Last registered on February 22, 2016

Pre-Trial

Trial Information
General Information
Title
Layoffs and the Survivor Syndrome – A Field Experiment
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0001075
Initial registration date
February 22, 2016
Last updated
February 22, 2016 12:13 PM EST
Location(s)
Region
Primary Investigator
Affiliation
University of Cologne
Other Primary Investigator(s)
PI Affiliation
University of Trier
PI Affiliation
University of Vechta
PI Affiliation
KU Leuven
Additional Trial Information
Status
In development
Start date
2016-02-22
End date
2016-09-30
Secondary IDs
Abstract
While downsizing in firms may be necessary for growth in a dynamic economy, layoffs are often discussed controversially in the general public and in the media. A significant amount of psychological literature suggests that downsizing creates costs associated with a decrease in work morale and motivation of those who remain employed in the company. This phenomenon is called “survivor syndrome.” To analyze the survivor syndrome, we conduct a field experiment in which subjects work in a natural work environment, and in which layoffs can be implemented in randomized manner. Subjects perform a telephone survey at a call center, which we rent for several weeks. The main output variable is the number of calls made. Between our treatments we vary the information that we provide to the non-fired subjects about the layoffs of their co-workers. To study heterogeneity in subjects’ reactions to layoffs, the field experiment will be followed by an online experiment that produces a measure of subjects’ direct and indirect negative reciprocity.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Citation
Heinz, Matthias et al. 2016. "Layoffs and the Survivor Syndrome – A Field Experiment." AEA RCT Registry. February 22. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.1075-1.0.
Former Citation
Heinz, Matthias et al. 2016. "Layoffs and the Survivor Syndrome – A Field Experiment." AEA RCT Registry. February 22. http://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/1075/history/6924.
Experimental Details
Interventions
Intervention(s)
While downsizing in firms may be necessary for growth in a dynamic economy, layoffs are often discussed controversially in the general public and in the media. A significant amount of psychological literature suggests that downsizing creates costs associated with a decrease in work morale and motivation of those who remain employed in the company. This phenomenon is called “survivor syndrome.”

To analyze the survivor syndrome, we conduct a field experiment in which subjects work in a natural work environment, and in which layoffs can be implemented in randomized manner. Subjects perform a telephone survey at a call center, which we rent for several weeks. The main output variable is the number of calls made.

Each subject performs the telephone survey for two working days. On the second working day, randomly selected workers are “laid off”. Between our main and our control treatments we vary the information that we provide to the non-fired subjects about the layoffs of their co-workers. In our main treatment we inform them that their co-workers were fired; in our control treatment we will tell them that less workers are employed, without any reference to layoffs. In a third treatment no workers are “laid off”.

To study heterogeneity in subjects’ reactions to layoffs, the field experiment will be followed by an online experiment that produces a measure of subjects’ direct and indirect negative reciprocity.

Finally, we will call all subjects a few weeks after the online experiment and debrief them about their role in the field experiment. We also invite them to participate in a short phone survey. In the phone survey we will try to identify contamination between treatment and control groups and study how subjects interpreted the layoff situation.
Intervention Start Date
2016-02-22
Intervention End Date
2016-06-30
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
Main outcome variable: Number of telephone calls

Minor outcome variables: Qualitative phone data, qualitative data from a feedback survey after the second working day
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
While downsizing in firms may be necessary for growth in a dynamic economy, layoffs are often discussed controversially in the general public and in the media. A significant amount of psychological literature suggests that downsizing creates costs associated with a decrease in work morale and motivation of those who remain employed in the company. This phenomenon is called “survivor syndrome.” To analyze the survivor syndrome, we conduct a field experiment in which subjects work in a natural work environment, and in which layoffs can be implemented in randomized manner. Subjects perform a telephone survey at a call center, which we rent for several weeks. The main output variable is the number of calls made. Between our treatments we vary the information that we provide to the non-fired subjects about the layoffs of their co-workers. To study heterogeneity in subjects’ reactions to layoffs, the field experiment will be followed by an online experiment that produces a measure of subjects’ direct and indirect negative reciprocity.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
coin flip
Randomization Unit
Working shifts / days
Was the treatment clustered?
No
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
(2*) 15 working days
Sample size: planned number of observations
170
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
50 main treatment, 50 control treatment 1, 50 control treatment 2
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
IRB
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARDS (IRBs)
IRB Name
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Post-Trial
Post Trial Information
Study Withdrawal
Intervention
Is the intervention completed?
No
Is data collection complete?
Data Publication
Data Publication
Is public data available?
No
Program Files
Program Files
Reports and Papers
Preliminary Reports
Relevant Papers