It’s no secret that fear of losing your job will hinder your quality of work, and even put that job in jeopardy. Yet anxiety about job loss is rampant. Layoffs, changes in job, boss, colleagues, and companies have put many on a mental edge and/or ledge.
In my work with leaders I see that excelling in this “new normal” means having the mindset of an enlightened free agent—one who embraces, rather than fears, the idea they’re expendable. Plant your flag in it. Use it not as brakes, but as fuel to be creative and do your best work.
The 2008 economic meltdown was the “duh” nail in the coffin for any iota of credence to the idea of job security. For those continuing (or aspiring) to work for organizations, rather than for themselves, I see at least three main ways of living with expendability:
1. A free-agent mentality—as mentioned above, the best leaders thrive despite (or due to) being expendable. Perhaps it revs them up, or maybe they’re more Zen than others. They balance self-interest, results, and organizational achievement. Either way, they are unhindered by fear.
2. A denial mentality—those who’ve either dodged “reductions in force” or whose companies have been stable or growing are not thinking about expendability. That’s a lost opportunity, in my book, but it may well be a blessing, or may lead to a rude awakening. Your actual mileage may vary.
3. A fear-based mentality—many executives are scared for their livelihood, given this new (mercenary) state of “normal.” Their fear twists decision-making around the notion of not wanting to make too many waves, or managing career risk day to day. Big problem, and likely to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Here are my tips for those of you who may be in the fear-based group:
1. If you are mourning the loss of a previous job or working with former colleagues or boss, which you’ll know because it’s got you bummed even though so much time has passed, and/or you’re comparing people and situations now to then, get some therapy or coaching help to propel you through it.
2. If you are making or skirting decisions/choices to avoid the risk of losing your job, it’s worthwhile to face it, and to understand that those choices can COST you your job. Stop rationalizing your held-back decision-making approach, find coaching / support, and/or a mentor from the FIRST group (above), the ones who embrace their expendability.
Subtract fear and mourning over past endeavors, and you will find, as others have, that your expendability can be a source of strength, which is why it CAN be great that your job’s at risk—it’s up to you.