I’ve been fortunate enough in my career to have never been terminated or laid-off, but for many Americans (and many of my fellow coworkers), especially those working in early to mid-stage startups, that is often not the case.
Changes in the economy, a shift in company strategy or a change of leadership can often trigger feelings of insecurity and uncertainty in the workplace that can be difficult to sit with.
I’m talking about those moments when your gut tells you something is wrong and you know that either your exit or a substantial change in how you’ve been working is on the horizon.
Having been a part of many failed business ventures and companies whose cultures made a dramatic shift for the worse I can empathize with those wrestling with feelings of self-doubt and diminished self-worth.
Times like these are challenging for any human-being. We all have basic human needs, including feelings of safety and security of our jobs. And when those become at-risk, we are prone to asking questions to which you may not know or be able to influence the answer; questions like:
- Am I going to be let go?
- Should I start searching for another job?
- If I’m able to stay, is my quality of work-life going to degrade?
- Is my position or title going to change? What if it’s a downgrade?
- Am I not smart/hard-working/[fill in the blank] enough?
At the core of many of these thoughts is the question of your worth as a person. Whenever that becomes at-risk, implicit feelings of self-doubt, existentialism, hopelessness, stress and more may be triggered.
But I’d like to share with you some wisdom I’ve learned over the years.
The first is: Try and not dwell on situations which are beyond your control.
If you’re in a position where you don’t know what’s going on but you feel you are at risk, just sit tight. Continue to maintain a positive attitude and strive to put your best foot forward.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been witness to decisions about who should stay and who should go, only to find that the boisterous worry-warts were amongst first to be let go. The decision to cut staff isn’t easy for anyone involved, but the reality is that if you’re adding to the stress of the event, you’ve just made yourself more of a target.
Sometimes decisions are swift and immediate, other times they are not. Look for ways you can be helpful, but don’t overextend yourself. Try and focus on just the here and now and wait for more information before you make any big decisions.
Second: Remember that it’s only a job!
We spend an inordinate amount of time at jobs with our coworkers, often more than we spend with our families.
Take the opportunity to take a big breath and think about what’s really important in life. As I’ve gotten older, this has rung more true to me. Once I accepted that as long as I’m employed by someone other than myself, a big part of the outcome of my time at a company is beyond my control. Accepting this as fact has allowed me to create space in my heart and mind for other more important aspects of my life, such as fitness and friends.
Finally: Know you’re going to be OK.
You made it this far; what makes you think you won’t be able to keep going? I’m telling you, it will all be OK. In time, this era of uncertainty will be all bit a brief memory and you’ll be able to look back at it as turning point in your life that lead you to where you are today.
Whether you are worried about money or your title or your ego (this is a big one) or whatever it is, know you’re going to come out of this OK. Try and see the impending change as an opportunity for growth instead of a punch in the stomach.
Most of us are privileged to live in a world with so much opportunity at our fingertips. I strongly advise using this time of uncertainty to learn a new skill, focus on delivering excellent work and exploring hobbies and activities outside of work that compliment the feelings of fulfillment you’ve been otherwise seeking from your job.
You can do this. I believe in you. And remember:
“When nothing is certain, everything is possible.” – Margaret Drabble