Economic uncertainty, fluctuating job security, layoffs and the risk of redundancy are all things we’ve had to come uncomfortably close to in recent years. And if you haven’t personally, you probably know someone who has.
Things have been… precarious in economic terms lately. There was the global health crisis, the rapidly escalating cost of everything, not to mention that boat that went up a canal wrong and froze world trade for a week.
The Bank of England expects a recession to happen if the economy continues shrinking. Redundancies follow recessions. Markets go quiet, prices rise, and businesses either downsize or restructure in order to survive. You’ll notice the two big peaks in the diagram below: the financial crisis in 2008 and Covid in 2020.
A large chunk of the workforce lived through one or both of those events. Understandably, job security is on people’s minds. They’re worried that while the redundancy rate in the UK right now is lower than it was before the pandemic, we’re at the base of another spike.
Despite it being a big worry for a lot of people, a lot of content on job security is quite technical. What am I entitled to? What’s the process I have to follow? How do I claim my redundancy package? We’re approaching it from a more holistic angle.
I’m speaking to Sanctus Coach Dr. Albert Viljoen about what job security is, how you might feel if your job is at risk, and what to do to make sure you’re looking after yourself.
What is job security?
Job security might mean one thing to one person and something completely different to someone else. In a general sense, it’s feeling safe and stable in your employment. Although it’s more about your state of mind within employment, rather than whether or not you’re actually employed.
You can be a freelancer with a small handful of clients, alongside working the odd weekend at a cafe. While that might seem uncertain or insecure to some, it could be all the security you need at that time in your life and career.
On the other hand, doing the same 9 to 5 for decades on end might seem like the more secure option, but recent events have shown it’s possible for anyone to be let go at any point. Recessions are indiscriminate like that.
“There’s no such thing as security if anything can happen, right?“
“Being self employed in many ways makes you well practised with the reality of uncertainty. If you have an employer, it’s almost like you’re outsourcing that sense of security and stability to them. You tell yourself you’re OK, that you’re safe, but this means you’re not practising that sense of “I might lose my job, my income at any point” and there’s a chance we lose an element of resilience with that.”
What happens when your job is at risk?
“When there’s news of a possible redundancy, it’s not that anything real has happened right away. But your mind will suddenly go into What If? mode. The temptation for the mind is to try and find mental security by running scenarios.”
“What if I’m made redundant? Well, then I won’t have an income in three months… And then I’ll have to move in with my parents… And you have to keep going until you get to a worst case scenario. Which seems counterintuitive, but by doing that you’re giving your mind clarity about the possibilities open to it, and that helps you settle down.”
“When we catastrophise, our mind goes to imagined places and they tend to be very fantastical, or nightmarish. Usually what I tell people is to write everything down, because writing things down makes them seem a lot clearer and more concrete. Your mind can have a kind of sense of doom but not necessarily a clear picture, and that vagueness is what feeds our anxieties and stress.”
You’re facing redundancy. What should you do?
“An important part of finding your feet again is reminding yourself what you’re good at. What have you accomplished? In your life? In your career? Even if you don’t feel that confident about yourself or your skills in the moment, you’ll be able to look back and remind yourself ‘Oh yeah! I’ve done that, and I’m good at that as well.’”
“We can lose sight of our strengths when we’re made redundant. We can be very self conscious when we lack something – especially something as important as a job – and that negative narrative kicks in. So the first step would just be acknowledging that it will feel a bit of a knock. But don’t allow negative thoughts to run your thinking.”
Is there a silver lining to losing your job?
“As much as security, comfort, convenience of any kind – whether it comes from money, your job, or your health – as much as it’s beneficial, it can make us passive. We become stagnant and lose our agility and resilience. Redundancy forces you into a position to lean on your strengths again, to remind yourself what you’re good at, to, to sell yourself – all skills which are great to have.“
“So yes, there is a silver lining. Even though you wouldn’t necessarily wish a job loss on anyone, there is the potential for growth, learning, skills, and new opportunities that come from it.”
“Sometimes you might be made redundant, which starts a chain of events that end up with you working in your dream job just a few years later. There’s always the opportunity for surprises. It’s important to remind ourselves that the chaos of life is exactly what gives us these kind of serendipitous opportunities, rather than the humdrum of a secure safe existence. And this applies to anything in life, relationships, jobs.”
“Good things are possible too. When we’re too safe, we don’t discover anything.”
How coaching helps
To be honest, coaching won’t change a great deal for you. If your job is unstable, you recently lost it, or you’re currently going through a redundancy period, there’s only so much coaching can do to improve that situation in a material way.
The thing with coaching is, even if the problem’s mind bogglingly complex or super simple, unique or run of the mill, the answer may be the same. In this case, it almost doesn’t matter the source of the anxiety, or fear. We’re talking about job security now, but you might feel the same way if a relationship was under threat or you were coming to terms with a health condition.
The situation itself tends to be so overwhelming, it distracts you from what you can actually do. And if you are looking at changing your life, distractions are the last thing you need.
Here’s a Sanctusified version of something Stephen Covey wrote about in his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. Things we can control, things we may only be able to influence, and things we feel concern for but may have to accept are out of our control.
You map out things in your life and what’s on your mind like this:
Ours looks a bit like an avocado inside an avocado. You might want to just draw up three different lists for yourself instead. This is a way to compartmentalise different thoughts and areas of your life.
Economic factors and business decisions go in that third layer. It’s out of our control, and more often than not something we have to simply accept. Spending and personal finances is more likely to go in that middle layer. Things we can influence.
You might think ‘I’m in control of my spending, my finances’. And 99% of the time you probably are. But when the boiler breaks or the washing machine floods, that control evaporates a bit. So we have a lot of influence over these things, it just isn’t total.
The things we’re in control of are often much smaller and simpler. How we speak to ourselves and others. The way we think about a particular situation. The choices we make and the directions we take throughout the day. “Updating your CV” or “speaking to a recruiter” would fall into this area.
So if we really zoomed in and filled this out, it might look a bit like this:
Rebounding from a career setback might feel overwhelming, even impossible. But if you’ve identified something like updating your CV, or updating a list of potential job opportunities, reaching out to a recruiter or getting back in touch with an old mentor is something you can do, it makes things a little easier.
It doesn’t have to always be something practical either. Sometimes we focus too much on the practical, especially when we’re worried about important things. What you might need more than anything is to forget about work and unwind for a change.
Any time we’re forced into being reactive or trying to fix an urgent problem, we often don’t think as clearly as we could. What we most often need is to slow down and follow the course of action that’s as clear headed as possible.
If you come to a Sanctus Coaching session worried about redundancy, first of all, your Coach would probably spend a bit of time making sure you’re alright. You might have a chat about your strengths – Sanctus Coaches are really good at getting you to think about things you hadn’t considered before.
More than likely you’ll spend the bulk of the session weighing up all the different options in front of you, exploring different scenarios, thinking about things from different perspectives. Then it’s about making the most intelligent choices you can as you work out the best way to move forward.