Furloughs and Their Extended Impacts

Much has been written about the recent shutdown by the U.S. Government, including the financial plight and implications of those most affected, but the psychological impact of this action is one that does not prompt the attention it deserves.

This reduced employment cost-saving technique—increasingly popular since the recession’s effects became fully understood—has been utilized in both the public and private sector; and though the effects of furlough might have subtle differences to actual job loss, it still has serious and negative implications.

A recent 2013 Journal of Applied Psychology article, The impact of furloughs on emotional exhaustion, self-rated performance, and recovery experiences, explores how furloughs affect the emotive and post-furlough mental state as well as subsequent job performance.  Their findings indicated that beyond the stresses of income loss (something that KRA Corporation highlighted in a previous post), that a furlough triggers a loss—to varying degrees—of physical, mental, and emotional resources among employees.

The authors’ evidence suggest that a furlough’s effects reach back into the workplace with employees experiencing emotional exhaustion and performance deterioration, including a decreased ability to complete job responsibilities and an increased carelessness with company property.

A Washington Post article, Psychological effects of being furloughed, asserts that the government furlough: “sends government employees home without a paycheck, job, or an uncertain future, it shakes the foundations of employee confidence to the core.  The rug of confidence and peace of mind is yanked out from under them.”  

Author, Paul Mountjoy, goes on to say: “Loss of quality sleep, anger towards those perceived as having caused the furlough, loss of respect of leadership and loss of external and internal control called ‘locus of control’ in psychology, can affect self-esteem, self-efficacy and doubt not only in the nation’s infrastructure but self-importance as some of the federal government employees are not furloughed as deemed too important to furlough.”

Another study, Making Negative a Positive: Furloughs, Family Benefits, and Job Satisfaction by researchers Ann Huffman and Lori Muse, points to perceived break in the “psychological contract between employer and employee” and increased work overload as the two major negatives that result from a furlough.

Huffman maintains that: “Furloughs impact job attitudes, morale, and how employees regard management. Resources are needed in both private and public sectors, and they are being taken away, which can be annoying to employees.”

KRA Corporation understands the impact that loss of employment, no matter how temporary, has on individuals and families and has spent over 3 decades attempting to get those unemployed workers back into the workplace through designing and implementing innovative and award-winning programs.

KRA Corporation is empathetic to those that are currently unemployed and our team will continue to work, and effect change, for those that are jobless—both through action and policy— to help strengthen communities…one individual resident at a time.