When someone loses their job, it’s usually a sad and uncertain time, but it can be just as perplexing and stressful when a person comes to work every day fearful of losing their job. Does job insecurity affect the way employees work and is there anything managers can do to help employees feel more secure?
In this article, I will dig into the causes of job insecurity and what leaders can do to deconstruct feelings of insecurity.
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 occasions when the threat is real, whether it’s due to external economic circumstances, an organization’s impending bankruptcy, or just a shift in organizational structure.
Other times an individual’s job insecurity is perceived. Perhaps it is:
- A reflection of the employee’s faith in their own abilities
- The employee has been left out of the information loop and is left to fill in the gaps themselves
- The employee is hearing false rumors
- The employee could be working 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 much the same. Talking about one’s insecurity with their leader may be a cringe moment conversation for the employee. As a leader, you can help create space for your employees to discuss openly with you.
How does it manifest?
The biggest effect job insecurity has is on employee engagement. Simply put, an engaged employee is the organization’s brand. The engaged employee is happy to stay with an organization.
For someone experiencing job insecurity, it is easy to see how they could start to become demotivated in their work – after all, they may believe their contribution does not matter if they won’t be sticking around. They may readily talk negatively about the organization to their co-workers, friends and family. They may post negative comments about the organization on social media. It also makes sense that someone who feels insecure about their job would start looking elsewhere for other job opportunities. All these things are huge red flags for management in noticing an employee 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 target for employees 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.
Combatting Job Insecurity
Communication is the most effective way you can start to quell fears of job insecurity and foster engagement among employees. Here are four steps you can take to get started:
- Communicate the bad news, don’t hide it – Job insecurity is rife among workplaces where rumors 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 are able. This will safeguard against employees filing in the gaps for themselves or letting rumors or their thoughts spiral out of control.
- Offer opportunities for employees to communicate their concerns – Remember the line of communication needs to be open both ways. Make sure employees feel comfortable bringing any concerns or questions to their manager. This also helps management gauge the level of insecurity employees are feeling and to decide if anything else needs to be done to address the feelings.
- 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. When an employee knows they are appreciated in an organization it can help any perceived insecurity to subside.
- Talk about the organization’s future – Let employees know where the organization is moving, talk about competencies needed for the future, ask employees for their ideas, and listen, listen, listen.
Being an Engaged Leader
Are you an engaged leader in your organization? As a leader, are you cultivating a place of work that leads to employee engagement? Are you setting your employees up to engage? Take this assessment today to see how you rank, and what areas need improvement.
Answer the questions below honestly with the facts of today, not the vision you have for your team in the future. This will help reveal if you have any engagement gaps.
I have provided my employees opportunities to learn and grow within the last 6 months.
My employees know the mission and vision of the organization.
I have given my employees recognition or encouragement within the last 7 days.
True or False: My employees have the materials and equipment they need to be successful at their job.
I take an active interest in my employee’s life outside of work.
I provide a variety of opportunities for my employees to engage with other employees. (Organizational picnic, volunteer opportunities, sports events etc.)
I meet 1:1 with my employees to listen to their concerns and ideas.
Our internal communications team has the means to communicate in a consistent way with the employees.
My employees are active users of the organization’s collaboration and communication tools.
Whether you have an employee with real or perceived job insecurity, being an engaged leader can help defuse the insecurity. Communication is key to working through job insecurity issues. You may find yourself supporting your employee as they have their own cringe moment conversation with you about their insecurities. Imagine emerging from that conversation as the leader who supported their employee and strengthened employee engagement.