Conquering fear when our jobs are at risk

It's October.  Officially autumn or fall and the month of Halloween when we are allowed to scare our children.  It's a peculiar thing this notion of gaining excitement from fear when at the same time the last thing anyone wants is to live in fear.

We are all familiar with the notion of fight or flight as our biological response to fear and, fortunately in our modern world of work, we rarely experience the acute stress of an actual attack from an animal or person.  However, we do know that whilst stress is a fact of life and a good thing in the right circumstances, chronic stress is an issue in our workplace and certainly not a good thing.  The cause of this chronic stress can be a multitude of factors.  I spoke in my last blog of excessive workload and our apparent reluctance to take a break, despite us knowing that long hours without breaks have a negative correlation on our wellbeing and productivity.

Of course those individuals reading that blog who were recently made redundant, facing redundancy, or fearing dismissal in some other form, may wish that a heavy workload and no break was your only problem in life!  Our identities are so indelibly linked with our professional roles that the sudden loss of our jobs, or the threat thereof, has the potential to significantly destabilize our sense of self, our self esteem and confidence and thereby compromise our ability to move forward.  This is a scary time and may manifest as chronic stress with all the negative implications.

“Stress is believed to be a factor in 80% of all chronic conditions, including auto-immune disease, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer” Blum Health MD

The impact of stress on us physically cannot be underestimated – as our info-graphic demonstrates: 

I know as an HR professional the negative experience of managing the redundancy / dismissal processes and I wonder whether we, as a collective, pay enough attention to the potentialimpact on individuals?  Good companies provide outplacement support - and is this enough?  It tends to focus on the practical such as financial advice which is important, and updating CVs etc, but how much support is provided psychologically?

The key to managing unforeseen, unexpected, or unwanted change in our professional lives is about taking control. Understanding the impact upon us physically emphasizes the need for us in those situations to respond proactively.  That's easier said than done when our self-confidence has taken such a knock.  Understanding what's happening to us is critical. Change consultant William Bridges created a simple 'Transition Model' to help people work through this process.  He describes 3 phases.

1. Endings - letting go of the past

2. Neutral Zone - where the past is gone but the new isn't fully present

3. New beginnings - embracing new beginnings; a new pattern is established.

How do we as individuals work through this process?  The following 7 steps are a start:

  1. Understand that the process you are experiencing is essentially one of grieving.  You will need to let go of past events to allow you to move forward.
  2. Focus on your health and wellbeing.  Good nutrition, exercising, sleeping, relaxing are all powerful tools to help regain your sense of control and positive mental attitude. 
  3. Seek support if your are struggling psychologically and you are demonstrating the signs of chronic stress.
  4. Source help and advice with the practical implications - especially the financial aspects.
  5. Take time out to reflect on what you have learnt about yourself. 
  6. Reflect on what you would really like to do and research those areas.
  7. Stay connected.  A symptom of losing confidence is withdrawing from your network - make every effort to meet up with trusted friends and colleagues.

Following these steps mean that gradually you restore your sense of control and self-confidence. This shift towards a positive mental attitude can have an amazing impact, and new opportunities will begin to open up.

It’s hard when you fear for your future, and the stress this places on you, your relationships and your family can be very damaging.  By facing our fears, understanding them and putting strategies in place puts us onto the path of regaining our sense of control and our confidence.

For more information on the 7Seeds transformational model get in touch

Victoria Grozier