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Pink slip fear drives Bangalore techies to docs

india Updated: Jun 26, 2009 12:09 IST

IT professionals in this tech hub are battling the global downturn with the help of doctors. Living under the constant fear of losing their jobs or trauma of seeing their colleagues getting the pink slip, the techies are increasingly seeking medical help to survive what experts call the "layoff survivor syndrome".

The intensity of the syndrome could become severe when a team member working on a project is benched or sent out, a leading psychiatrist said.

"It's a mental situation where IT professionals who of late have seen their colleagues, who are often friends too, being laid off," B.N. Gangadhar, professor of psychiatry at the premier National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS) here, told IANS.

"First, it is the anxiety that the axe may fall upon them the next time and, secondly, a sense of remorse, with a tinge of guilt that they have survived, whereas their colleagues sitting next to them have lost jobs," Gangadhar said.

Two million people were employed in the Indian IT and BPO industry in 2007-08, according to the National Association of Software and Service Companies (Nasscom). The BPO sector employed more than 700,000 people.

"These are bad times. Recently two of my colleagues, who are also close friends, were fired. I am feeling terrible after the episode," said Sundar Gopal working with a reputed Indian IT company.

UNITES-Professionals (Union of Information Technology-Enabled Services-Professionals), says there is no clear estimate of the job loss in these sectors in the wake of the global economic meltdown.

Though UNITES claims that such unions have been formed in several countries, they are not recognised as a trade union either by the governments or employers.

"Every other employed IT professional is thinking that it's their turn next," rues Karthik Shekhar, general secretary of UNITES-Bangalore told IANS.

UNITES-Bangalore says it has more than 50,000 members.

"Those who are still employed are working under great mental stress, which is taking a toll on their work and professional growth also," Shekhar asserted.

UNITES-Bangalore contends that the employers are not helping their staff to deal with the mental trauma of being laid off.

"The companies are not giving any kind of counselling before handing over pink slips to their employees. This leaves the employees distraught. The companies should provide some kind of counselling in not only giving mental solace to their employees but also some amount of guidance in helping them find an alternative means of livelihood," said Shekhar.

Several Bangalore hospitals say they are seeing increased number of IT professionals seeking help.

"We're getting two types of IT professionals seeking our help. First are those who have already lost their jobs and second are those who're fighting the fear that they might lose their jobs soon," said M. Srihari, a psychiatrist with the state government-run Bangalore Medical College.

"After counselling and medical aid, many have improved, but some are too shocked to believe that they have lost their jobs or their colleagues have lost their jobs," Srihari added.

He has a suggestion, particularly for youngsters.

"Losing a job is not the end of life. Life has many things in store and they could easily try various options to rise again," added Srihari.

From the sprawling campuses of IT majors to the small backroom offices in the city the "psychological pressure" under which the staff goes about the daily work is evident when one talks to them.

Ramaya P., employed at a multinational company, said every day she works under the fear of being fired the next moment.

"Insecurity is palpable everywhere. I have heard of cases of so many people getting pink slips in recent times. My stress level has increased," said Ramya, who added she has not yet thought of going to a counsellor.

Asked how she is tackling the situation, Ramya said: "I only hope the situation improves soon."