Written by Dr Caroline Marlow, Chartered Psychologist and Director of L&M Consulting Ltd.
Stress literature suggests that job insecurity, the perceived probability and perceived severity of losing one’s job, can be as stressful as losing your job. This is because the lack of control and anticipation of not being able to meet your social and economic needs makes it difficult to live in the present and to plan for the future. Further, job insecurity and redundancy can lead you to question what you know about yourself and the world.
Job insecurity is potentially, therefore, a risk to wellbeing. Indeed, large-scale across-sector surveys frequently link job insecurity with greater risk of poor health, whilst research also suggests a doubling of the risk of mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety.
Despite this, denial or avoiding to prepare for potential job loss is both common and understandable. You might feel that any preparations would threaten your/others’ perception of your commitment, or seem pointless within an unpredictable job market. Consequently, the ‘wait and see’ strategy may be helpful if it maintains a sense of control or reduces the loss of time or energy in long-term insecurity situations. But research warns that this approach may not be so helpful in the long-term.
So How Should I Cope with Job Insecurity?
Everyone perceives and experiences job insecurity differently so it difficult to give strong recommendations of what to do to reduce job insecurity stress. However, honest consideration of the following evidenced-based strategies will help you find the balance that suits your situation.
a) Reality Check: Is your job really under threat? Gain information and give honest consideration to the probability of job loss, and the severity of specific life consequences.
b) Be Career Aware: Remember; careers rarely progress upwards in a linear fashion, progression often requires change, and every change can be a crisis, a relief and/or a positive. Expect your career to take a series of steps, some forward – small and large, some backwards, some within your control, others not. Regardless of the reasons and direction of travel, consider each step and role as an opportunity to gain and enjoy new experiences, and to develop new personal and professional skills. If you’ve got a career dream, keep working on it.
c) Develop Competency. Know about the latest professional skills and what’s in demand. Keep your skill base up-to-date and take on new responsibilities. Don’t underestimate the benefit of developing strong, transferable personal skills, e.g., time management, social skills, coping. Also, broaden your understanding of what other jobs and careers are available both in and out of industry/sector, and how your skills can be applied.
d) Know and Be Confident in Who You Are: Know what makes you you; your personal beliefs and values. E.g., are values such integrity, work hard, optimism important to you? Ensure that you live by your values. Let them underpin your confidence, guide your decisions, help you face new challenges. Others will notice and value you for it.
e) Grow Your Network: Optimise and use those who can provide advice, and listening, emotional and logistical support.
f) Address Specific Redundancy Concerns. E.g.; if you are worried about financial consequences, seek financial advice and manage your current funds wisely. If you have a partner/family, discuss concerns that may affect them, with them.
Are you in a position of knowledge or control over the employment of others? If so, do what you can to promote their sense of security. Most specifically, prioritise open communication and work to maintain their trust. This might not solve their job insecurity, but it will help reduce the psychological health risk.
If Made Redundant …
This life change can bring many daunting, challenging, (maybe positive), anticipated and unanticipated consequences.
a) Use Networks: If you have set good impressions and nurtured your network, let people know you are available and ask if they can help.
b) Moving Forward: Aim to come to terms with what’s happened. Negative thoughts and feelings of being sacked or negative situations endured whilst in post can dominate and prevent you from moving on effectively.
c) Gain Support: Emotions associated with grief are often experienced, i.e., denial, anger, bargaining and depression. Don’t ignore or be embarrassed by them. Instead, acknowledge and work through them appropriately with friends, trusted colleagues or professional services.
d) Restory: Look for the positives in what happened. If possible, accept. Develop a story that you can live with and move on.
Remember: Careers progress in various ways. Appropriate preparation helps you; be resilient, enjoy and work optimally in your current post, and face any changes with confidence.
This article was published in Football Medicine and Performance (Issue 29, Summer 2019).
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