It’s always a sad and frustrating time when anyone loses their job but it can be just as confusing and challenging when an employee is coming to work each day in fear that they’ll lose their job. So, does job insecurity affect the way you work and is there anything managers can do to help employees feel more secure?
What causes job insecurity?
The interesting thing about job insecurity is that it doesn’t always come from a real sense of danger. There are times, of course, when the danger is real - whether it’s external economic factors, the impending bankruptcy of an organisation, or simply a shift in the organisational structure. Other times, however, an individual’s job insecurity is perceived - perhaps it’s a reflection of their own faith in their abilities, maybe they’ve been left out of the information loop so they’re left to fill in the gaps themselves or they’re just hearing false rumours, alternatively, they could be under a poor management or leadership style.
Regardless of whether an employee’s job insecurity is real or perceived, the day-to-day consequences are usually much the same.
How does it manifest?
The biggest effect job insecurity has is on employee engagement. Simply put, an engaged employee is someone who is ready to go the extra mile in their work, be an advocate for the organisation’s brand and someone who is happy to stay with an organisation.
For someone experiencing job insecurity, it’s easy to see how they could start to become unmotivated in their work - after all, they may believe their contribution doesn’t matter if they won’t be sticking around - and they might readily talk negatively about their organisation to their friends and family. It also makes sense that someone who feels insecure about their job would start looking elsewhere for other job opportunities. All of these things are huge red flags for management to keep an eye out for someone who is disengaged in their work.
Managers can often be the ones who exacerbate job insecurity by not being open or by simply being the people who employees turn to blame in times of great stress. The good news is that managers are also in the perfect position to start tackling job insecurity to turn it around.
Take heart! There are things you can do to combat job insecurity.
Put simply, communication is the most effective way you can start to quell fears of job insecurity among your employees and start to foster engagement amongst employees. Here are three simple steps you can take to get started:
Communicate the bad news, don’t hide it - job insecurity is rife amongst workplaces where rumours are flying and big-wigs sit behind closed doors with sullen faces. Not everything needs to be communicated to all employees but it is important to share the bad news as soon as you can so that employees don’t have time to fill in the gaps for themselves and let rumours or their thoughts spiral out of control.
Offer opportunities for employees to communicate their concerns - Remember that the line needs to be open both ways. Make sure employees feel comfortable bringing any concerns or questions to their manager. This also helps management to gauge the level of insecurity employees are feeling and to decide if anything else needs to be done to address this feeling.
Communicate recognition for effort - personal insecurities can play a huge role in the way individuals perform their tasks. Ensure employees are acknowledged when they perform well and reaffirm them as much as possible - knowing you’re appreciated in an organisation can help any perceived insecurity to subside.
Greg Weiss is one of Australia’s most renowned career coaches. He is the author of “So You Got A Job, WTF Is Next”. The book prescribes a proven, practical 7 step guideline for new employees so they succeed, rather than fail their probation periods and beyond. Find out more about the book at https://www.wtfisnext.wtf/
He is the Founder and Director of Onboff an online training and coaching platform that helps HR specialists, coaches and recruiters to deliver exceptional onboarding and offboarding experiences for employees.
Greg also hosts The Keep: The Employee Experience podcast and runs CareerSupport365.