Many of us know friends and family who were recently laid off, denied their bonus, or had their raise postponed. You may have already survived a round of layoffs at work.
The entire workforce, which shifted away from the office during the COVID pandemic, has now been ordered back to company cubicles in whiplash style. Continued slow economic growth, rising interest rates and concerns about a looming recession may have spiked your work worries.
And that’s just some of what’s going on at work.
Many touched by layoffs
It’s no wonder that workers report growing anxiety, stress and feelings of job insecurity. A 2023 Workforce Panel at Perceptyx, an HR consulting firm, found that 4 in 10 employees saw people laid off at their companies, 18% were laid off personally, and 1 in 4 lost a supervisor to a workforce reduction.
Employees reported that layoff news prompted them to look for a new job, and 50% of those with “layoff anxiety” indicated they would not be with their company at the same time next year.
So, how do employees like you cope when facing job insecurity and workplace anxiety? Here’s what the experts say.
What experts recommend
To increase your pay or desirability, start with a vision for your future, advises Amie Devero, founder and president of Beyond Better Strategy and Coaching, which counsels executives on employee state of mind and performance. A new vision could be a different job title, expanded responsibilities, a new employer or some level of success in your own business.
Then, assess any gaps you need to fill in your arsenal of skills that would be essential for that role. “The biggest question is which specific skill or body of knowledge to approach first — there is always so much to learn,” says Devero. “But whichever it is, resources are plentiful: YouTube, Udemy, Coursera, your local community college, the library or your employer’s HR department. Then go for it.”
Read: Are older workers getting ‘quiet-fired?’
Build out your network
Connect with colleagues, both within and outside your company. Networking can provide support, insights and potential job opportunities. Commiserating with others in an industry that has been hit hard, like tech, can help you feel more in control and realize that others are facing similar worries and are taking concrete steps to get through it. You can build a solid professional life by embracing interpersonal relationships in and out of the workplace, which can help you weather ups and downs.
Expose and address a weakness
If you’re experiencing job-related doubt or anxiety, assess your skills and develop the ones you don’t have yet, advises Carolyn Montrose, a career success coach at Fullstack Academy and a lecturer in Communications and Leadership at Columbia University.
“Ask a manager or mentor about which skills will matter the most in your industry and role a year from now,” says Montrose.
Then get busy learning them. Read job descriptions for roles a step above your current position and look for skills that pop up throughout the listings. Make a list of any you still need.
“For the skills you want to develop, do some research on boot camps, online courses and study guides. Tap in to your LinkedIn network and groups for advice, and don’t discount attending conferences. Listening to panel discussions and participating in workshops are great ways to learn in an environment where you can also make connections,” she says.
If you don’t know where to begin, choose the weakness you’re most excited to eradicate and get going.
Also see: Older workers are fooling themselves when it comes to work, money and caregiving
Manage the uncertainty
To control the insecurity and ambiguity at work, try taking a step back and assessing the entire picture from a neutral standpoint, says Chris Rabanera, a licensed family and marriage therapist and founder of TheBaseEQ.com, which specializes in therapy for high achievers at work, such as physicians, business owners and tech executives.
Rabanera said you may recognize the situation for what it is: ‘At this moment, I feel insecure about layoffs or company reorganization.’ After identifying the issue, you can begin to explore, without judgment, why you feel insecure.
The object is to discover the source of your insecurity and examine how to take control. For instance, you could update your resume or talk with a friend in a similar industry. “The process of recognizing, examining and evaluating your options can help manage uncertainty and insecurity,” says Rabanera.
Also see: Announcing that you’re laid off is becoming common on LinkedIn: Here’s what to say—and not to say
Instead of retreating and ruminating about bad workplace news or impending changes, think of bold actions you can do to stave off your job insecurity. “The boldest thing you can do is ask for help,” says Montrose. “As long as you are willing to improve, asking for support demonstrates your commitment to your job, team and organization.”
Reach out to your manager, colleagues or mentor and ask for tips about ways to learn and push yourself, or, flat out ask your supervisor to suggest the best way to survive the changing workplace landscape and make yourself a more valuable team player.
Plus: The idea behind ‘Bare Minimum Monday’ highlights burnout and poor mental health at work. Should you try it?
Protect your mindset
“I find that those who can practice mindfulness can keep their composure,” says Rabanera. Mindfulness means staying present in the moment by focusing only on what you sense and feel right now, without interpreting or judging it. Slow, deep diaphragmatic breathing can help clear your mind, especially if you begin to feel anxious. It can help you to avoid ruminating or going down the rabbit hole of possible bad outcomes at work, notes Rabanera.
Additionally, maintaining work-life balance by strengthening mental and emotional fortitude, and engaging in self-care can create resilience during work upheavals. Reminding yourself that you have adapted after previous hardships also can help you feel more resilient. If needed seek the support of friends, family members or professional therapists.
It is important to understand that no job is entirely secure, even in the best times. Industries evolve; change happens. Artificial intelligence is only the latest agent that is forecast to transform everything.
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Focus on building a diverse skill set that makes you valuable. Prepare yourself financially with an emergency fund and a sound budget, and think realistically about your future career and prepare potential next steps if worst comes to worst.
The key to prospering in a fluctuating professional environment is to accept change and be ready for it.
Jennifer Nelson is a Florida-based writer who also writes for MSNBC, FoxNews and AARP.
This article is reprinted by permission from NextAvenue.org, ©2023 Twin Cities Public Television, Inc. All rights reserved.
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