Worrying about the future – How to deal with job loss anxiety in the workplace.

Business 20th June 2023

We have been through a lot of changes in the workplace in the last few years. Naturally, this can lead to fears of job losses in the workforce. So, what are the do’s and don’ts of dealing with job loss anxiety and should it be a concern?

Why is fear of losing a job so important to our wellbeing?

At the risk of stating the obvious, your working life, bringing home enough income to support your lifestyle, your career path, and so on, matter to most people. We all have our individual goals and expectations of our life, and job security plays a major role in these being fulfilled. If you are familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs you will know that our employment not only features on the second tier of it, but also impacts heavily on the basic tier. That means it is threatening the physical needs of life. In short, our employment is not only part of who we are, it helps provide for our basic requirements such as food and shelter. No wonder then that job insecurity can have such an impact on us.

That said, to some degree it is natural to be concerned about your job security now and again. Events in the working day, general worry over the economy, concerns about our career and so on are all occasionally going to arise. There is a very big difference between these perfectly natural worries and the state of high anxiety that can sometimes occur in a workplace or with individuals.

What employers can do about job anxiety.

The fear of losing your job is rooted in the core of our needs. Essentially it is creating stress about the basics of our life, feeding our families, and keeping a roof over our heads. As a result of the stress it generates, employees may perform less efficiently, morale will drop, and it can even generate a toxic workplace environment. The fact that it is so important to employees, means that it should be addressed for the overall good of everyone and the health of the business. So here are a few general do’s and don’ts if you are concerned about job anxiety in the workplace.

  • Don’t allow the stress to grow. Clearly you need to consider your response to the situation but the longer you take to answer the fear, the more it will grow. Call us and we are happy to help on this.
  • Do acknowledge the fears and do accept that they matter. It’s better to discuss the concerns openly and in a safe environment than brush them off as unimportant. To the worker they are far from unimportant.
  • Don’t try to blanket reassure people with vague assurances. This is particularly true if there is some potential substance to their fears. For example, there is no point in just telling the workforce not to worry if you have lost several large customers in a short space of time or you are making redundancies in some departments. To individual employees who are worried they are underperforming, a vague response could suggest a lack of interest. Any concerns that jobs are at risk will need to be addressed appropriately.
  • Do be transparent and do be specific about what is happening in the business or, what is happening to the individual, to cause the anxiety. In the above scenarios you can see why a general ‘it will be fine’ response wouldn’t be a great way to deal with things. A positive and transparent message about how the customers are being replaced or the need for the redundancies on the other hand will be received much better. For the individual, performance reviews and a chance to talk about things may go a long way.
  • Do try to offer assurances of long term commitment to employees. Training and upskilling or planning for goals and objectives for example, create milestones that people can equate to. Sharing your plans for the business and asking for input, again demonstrates your commitment to the long term. However, it’s important that these are followed through with the individual employees and with further briefings of where the company currently stands.

There are several other options available to you and, as always, it is of critical importance that you do what is right for you and your employees. Your response should be tailored to your circumstances.

Micro and macro response is often needed.

In the current economic climate, with rising costs and your team feeling the pinch, job security is bound to be an issue. A micro response to individuals and macro response to the company overall could well reduce or prevent a build-up of job security anxiety. There is a good chance that we are going to see some tough months ahead so, for example, now is a good time to consider individual support for employees and review your overall offer as an employer. As well addressing these problems if they arise, it may well be worth getting ahead of the game and building some of the reassurances into your current practice.

One of the biggest dangers of not addressing job related fears is that you find employees leaving to take what they perceive to be a more secure position. When people are worried that they will not be able to meet their commitments, they start to elevate the importance of stability in the workplace and will look to the employer to reassure them. If they don’t find that, they could look elsewhere for the job security they need. If that happens you would be well advised to be the employer who demonstrates job security.

Get in touch if you feel you have a problem or if you want to discuss anything in this article and we’ll be happy to talk things through with you.

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