ARE YOU AFRAID OF LOSING YOUR JOB? Fear of change is the ego’s natural state. Many people also lack confidence in themselves or their abilities. Everyone, regardless of level or competence, has spent, at least, a little time worrying about losing their job. This worry often increases with age and financial & family responsibilities. This fear is almost a natural human condition that stems from fear of uncertainty and from a natural process of analyzing the “what-ifs?” of the future. In the modern business world, safe jobs don’t really exist anymore. Almost everyone will lose a job sometime in their life. This is true of even the largest and (perceived to be) safest Blue Chip multinational companies. The concept of a job for life (outside of Government employment) has come out of a very short phase in modern history in a small number of Western countries. This phase of long-term job security has largely come and gone.
The key questions are about learning how to deal with this fear. This involves recognising when it is a genuine concern that you have to prepare yourself for. Also, it involves recognising when the concern is a personal exaggeration or the result of catastrophist or self-deprecation and self-doubt. You may lose your job at some stage in your life but you don’t have to constantly worry about it all the time. Remember that change can be a positive thing and it might be the best thing that can ever happen to you. Focus on that which you can control. You can control your attitude. You can control the quality of your own individual work and make it the best that it can possibly be. You can strive for excellence. There are people today who are worried about losing their job. With the daily news of downsizing and company failures, many people are becoming afraid that they could become unemployed. Recently, I have talked to a number of people who have lost their jobs. I have also been talking to people who are afraid of getting fired. There is something that I have shared with both groups. Someone can take away your job or your current income. While that is certainly something that is very unpleasant, that is all that they can take away from you. They cannot take away who you are or what you can do. Whenever you leave a job, either by your choice, or the company's choice, you take with you everything that you are and everything that you have. You take all of your experience with dodie ste®eo p®odu©tion ™
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ARE YOU AFRAID OF LOSING YOUR JOB? you. You take all of the skills and abilities that you have developed. Your discipline and work ethic come with you as well.
No one can ever take any of those things away from you.
For those who have been laid off, that is very important to remember. Being let go for no fault of your own can be hurtful. I know some who are bitter and angry. However, dwelling on the hurt and the emotions does not help one to seek out and find employment. Rather, the focus needs to be on what one has to offer. That is something that those who are employed also need to remember too.
If the day comes when you are let go, you still take with you all that you are and all that you can do. Other points for anyone tempted to be afraid of losing their job include focusing on what you can control, knowing how to make the company money and expanding your skills at work. First, remember that there are things that you can control and things you cannot control. Some decisions may be made in a corporate office hundreds of miles away. Some of these things you have no input in and no control over. Focus on that which you can control. You can control your attitude. You can control the quality of your own individual work and make it the best that it can possibly be. You can, and you should, strive for excellence. It's sad, but true that many workers have developed a slacker's work ethic. They do just enough to get by. They should have been developing a work ethic that is now needed and in demand. Secondly, remember that the reason for being hired is to make money for the company. How few recognize that! If they really understood that, it would greatly influence their work ethic. Thirdly, don't only strive for excellence in what you do; also look for ways to expand your skills. Learn things about other departments. Ask questions, get involved, and, volunteer to help someone else with their job. Finally, being afraid will shackle you. Fear always keeps someone from freely moving forward. Working with fear will affect your productivity. You will not be able to work peacefully and accomplish all that you really could accomplish without fear. I can remember specifically on two occasions when I was afraid of being fired. One situation was in the mid 70's and they were downsizing. The fear of getting fired was affecting my work, and I knew it.
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ARE YOU AFRAID OF LOSING YOUR JOB? The other time was in the late 80’s. I was working for a small company and I just knew something was going on. Again, the fear of loosing my job was beginning to affect my performance. Thankfully in both cases, I was able to secure other employment. And, I took all my work ethic, skills and strengths with me. As long as you are doing the very best that you can, it serves you no purpose to be afraid or worry that you might get fired. That only adds stress and affects your performance. If you think about it, with so much downsizing, in many workplaces, one person now does the work that two or three people did previously. You just cannot afford to have anything affect your performance. So, refuse to live with fear. Refuse to go to work with fear. Tell fear to take a hike and then pour your heart and soul into what you are doing. Do your very best! Never comprise on a good work ethic. Remember, if you leave, you're taking your work ethic with you. In the meantime, continue to grow and develop yourself, either in the field you are in, or in some other field. Make yourself more valuable this year than you were last year. Know that you are someone who has a lot to offer, wherever you are employed. The risk of being fired is the biggest axe a company or a manager holds over an employee’s head. Yet despite its commonness, we have tacitly accepted the idea that being fired is not only costly and disruptive to employees, their families, and their communities, but is also a shameful thing which should be avoided at all costs. For this reason, many of us will accept untenable conditions at work and go to extraordinary lengths to keep our jobs. Adopt a positive attitude that overcomes the threat of being fired. Fear is oppressive and threatening, and cause one anxiety over many of one's actions or thoughts. Anxious employees are less productive, because they fear making the wrong decision or saying the wrong thing and because they avoid complaining about any problems they encounter. Moreover, chronic stress hits employees' health hard. Make a resolution that you will not tolerate working in a state of fear.
A big reason most of us are unhappy with working in an office is due to fear.
We are afraid of losing our jobs and the pay check that comes with them. If we lose our jobs we think that the entire world will end. We won’t be able to have a home or feed ourselves and our families. We think of the worst possible thing and imagine how bad it would be if we lost our jobs. It’s this fear that keeps us sitting in our cubicles day in and day out, or trudging the shop floor. We may hate our jobs for years, but we are too afraid to do anything about it. We don’t talk to
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ARE YOU AFRAID OF LOSING YOUR JOB? people or stand up for ourselves because we are afraid of being fired. We don’t take vacations and genuine sick leave because we don’t want to be seen as lazy. We work all day without breaks so that we look like hard workers. We don’t look for other jobs that might make us happier because we are afraid of change. We ask ourselves what will happen if it doesn’t work out. What if we don’t like our new boss? What if we get laid off from that job? We tell ourselves it’s scary out there. This isn’t healthy. It stresses us out constantly. This kind of life gives a kind of stress that people have never experienced before the modern workplace. It’s chronic stress. It used to be that people were afraid of starving, or being killed by a lion, or falling off a cliff, or something truly dangerous. Now we are afraid of losing a job title. We are afraid of losing a pay check. Yes, we may starve because of it, but probably won’t. It confuses us. Our bodies can do things to fight off lions and starvation, but they can’t do anything to stop this chronic stress. We spend our days doing our job. We sit all day. We fret about inconsequential things. Then we sit in traffic on the way home. Sometimes we have a few beers to relax on the really stressful days. Then we wonder why we’re always tense and have to go to the chiropractor. A life of fear won’t get you anywhere. Even if you work the office job your entire life you’ll still probably die of the heart attack brought on by the stress. We might make plenty of money and never have to change jobs. On paper, we might be a total success. Inside we’ll be a wreck. I’ve met people who are 50 years old and have been working in their jobs for the past 30, yet they are still deathly afraid of losing their jobs. What a hard life. I propose that we give up this fear. Let’s stop worrying about whether or not we have a job tomorrow. Just stop worrying about it. If you get fired tomorrow life will go on. It won’t kill you. You can find another job and another way to make money. You can change your lifestyle if you need to. You can become a hobo. In the end, it doesn’t really matter. The important thing to remember is that no matter how much you worry about something, you can’t stop it. You can fret and worry and be afraid about losing your job, but it won’t change anything. You will still get fired if they want to fire you. By no means am I saying that you shouldn’t work hard. Do your job and do it well. Be the best at your job. Be awesome at it, but don’t worry about losing it. Worrying will only stress you out. It won’t stop anything from happening. Like a lot of people, I was laid this year. It really sucked. I was working for a company that was having financial problems and they had to make cuts - well that was the manager’s storey. I was one of them out of many. I did a good job, showed up on time, was nice to everybody, and was all around a good employee. I still got canned. dodie ste®eo p®odu©tion ™
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ARE YOU AFRAID OF LOSING YOUR JOB? Losing a job sucks, but I think everyone should go through it once in their lives. It helps to put things into perspective. In my youth I had been worried for years about losing my job. I didn’t know what I would do if I lost it. I thought my whole life would fall apart. It didn’t of course. I ended up losing not only my job, but all my positions – three times – once in Nigeria (Biafra Civil War), Mozambique and in Angola all because of civil wars. I was unemployed for a while, but I found something. Everything worked out in the end. Then I lost my wife since 1969 in 1991 in an air crash and again I thought my world had come to an end. But it didn’t! It may take longer for some people, but things will work out. Even if they don’t, you’ll be ok. The big thing I realized though is that no amount of worrying would have helped me keep my job. It was going to happen. I was a great employee and I still got canned because of “budget changes”. I wish I wouldn’t have been stressed out about it. I wish I wouldn’t have been afraid of losing the job. I could have really enjoyed my time there if I didn’t stress out about the possibility that I might be laid off. What a waste of time and energy to be stressed for so long. Just remember that even if the worst possible thing happens and you lose your job, your house, your family, your car, your clothes, and can’t even feed yourself, worrying about it won’t help. Worrying everyday won’t do you any good. Be prepared for things, but stop worrying. Some seven years ago, I got a job I really likes in the Tourist and Hospitality Industry. My boss was a great girl, my co-workers were competent and fun and the clients are on the whole all terribly nice people. There’s only one fly in the ointment: Five years down the line, the nice manageress left to get married and move elsewhere, then a year down the line from her leaving, one of the new managers – although a pleasant man - was on the fiddle and sadly many employees lost out on benefits, rewards and bonuses. Then a new boss (team leader) came on the scene and he was… less nice. He tended to summon all his employees to meetings and chew them out collectively and loudly for whatever problems he sees, he bullied the female employees constantly, brought EVERY female employee to tears. IMHO He’s abrasive and unpleasant, always complains and never acknowledges his people for the good work they do. His emails to his underlings are a case study in rudeness. And, of course, he’s known for summarily firing people who cross him in any way. Now, while I liked the job I was doing I did not need this. As I was independently somewhat wealthy and so skilled that I could always go out and get another job if need be, and even more supportive for me is I only had a year before retirement, I therefore have zero fear of being fired. Where other people in the company feel they must watch their tongue for fear of the consequences, I felt free to say and do exactly what I thought is right. dodie ste®eo p®odu©tion ™
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ARE YOU AFRAID OF LOSING YOUR JOB? And here’s the thing: When I stood up to this team leader and told him that I would not stand for his unpleasant approach and exactly why his abrasive style creates problems for the company, he listens. Nobody has ever told him this at the company these things before, and for the first time the company has an employee that is totally unafraid of doing so. The result: This particular team leader was slowly changing his ways. And he certainly pulls none of his usual attacks on me, who he knows I would simply not stand for it. The risk of being fired is the biggest axe a company or a manager holds over employees’ heads. It’s a mostly unstated, but well-known fact of working life that if you as an employee get too far out of line, you’ll be fired. Or terminated/axed/given the chop – don’t you just love those terms, with their unsubtle flavour of death? And of course we have tacitly accepted that being fired is a terrible thing and should be avoided at all cost, which is why many of us will accept bad, actually appalling conditions at work and otherwise go to extraordinary lengths to keep our jobs.
Do this, or else… People who live in fear of being fired tend to: Take crap from management Follow unethical or immoral orders Stand for bullying or harassment Go along to get along Mask their real personalities Hide their real opinions Accept too low or unfair salaries Kiss butt Avoid complaining about any problems they see Wanna bet how many people at Enron had a sense that something was wrong long before the company was exposed, but kept it to themselves out of fear of losing their jobs? So I say it’s time we take the stigma out of being fired. If you can rid yourself of that threat (or at least reduce it greatly) then you grant yourself much wider latitude at work. Trust me; our workplaces will be better and happier for it. You say I’m fired like it’s a bad thing… And when you really think about it, what’s so embarrassing about being fired? Here are some of the most common reasons people are fired, and why that doesn’t reflect badly on the fired:
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ARE YOU AFRAID OF LOSING YOUR JOB? Personality mismatch – So you didn’t fit in at that one company. Guess what, there are millions of others. There might just be one somewhere that is a good match for you. Besides, who says you were the problem?
Skill mismatch – So you tried out a job and you didn’t have the skills for it. Big deal. Again there are millions of other jobs. Refusing to go along – I say good for you. If that’s why you got fired, be proud. Downsizing – Thousands of people are downsized every day. Unreasonable – If you were fired for being pregnant or any other unreasonable excuse, then there’s certainly no reason to be ashamed. The exception is people who’re fired for harassing or abusing others or people who are repeatedly fired over the same problems. These people need to take a closer look at themselves! Make being fired less of a problem Of course being fired can create problems, but you can deal constructively with many of them, and thus reduce or eliminate the consequences. Here are some typical problems of being fired and how to mitigate them.
Economic uncertainty This must be the biggest problem that results from being fired. How will you pay your bills, your mortgage and your kids’ college savings etc. etc.? There are two ways to reduce the financial problems of being fired. You can increase your employability and make it easier for you to find a new job. This is a matter of keeping your personal and professional skills up to date and of cultivating a good network. The second way is to keep your private expenses low, so that you’re not 100% dependent on that pay check every month. I love this approach myself. Trouble explaining being fired to next employer But how will I explain to my next potential employer that I was fired? If you believe that being fired is embarrassing and that it reflects badly on you, then this will come out in your CV and in your job interviews. But if you hold your head up high and explain exactly what happened and why you’re not ashamed, then this will help convey the impression that “Yeah, you were fired, so what!” Some employers will care; some won’t – provided you explain it right. Shame Many people feel a deep shame at being fired and at being unemployed. Thus being fired from your last job is typically not something we mention in polite dinner conversation with strangers. But why not? Why must being fired or being unemployed be so darned embarrassing? It doesn’t need to be! You decide for yourself whether you need to be ashamed or not! Don’t let others force shame upon you, if you have nothing to be ashamed of. dodie ste®eo p®odu©tion ™
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ARE YOU AFRAID OF LOSING YOUR JOB? Loss of relationships For many people, their closest relationships are with people at work and losing them can be painful. The best way to mitigate this is to have many positive relationships outside of work also. And of course increasing your employability lets you quickly find a new job and new relationships at work. Wrap –up Reduce your fear of being fired and you increase your freedom and happiness at work. At the very least, you can stop being ashamed about something that happens to hundreds of thousands of people every year, is perfectly natural and which may not be your fault at all! I’m not saying that companies should never fire people. Some people fit in, some people don’t, and companies need to say goodbye to those people who are not contributing or learning. In fact, for some people, being fired from a job turns out to be a great thing, that allows them to move on to a job where they become much happier. The important thing is, that we as employees should put ourselves in a position where being fired is not a terrible thing. That way we rid ourselves of the fear of being fired and grant ourselves new freedoms at work. Are you going to do that, or are you going to spend your work life going along with just about anything, simply to hang on to a job that isn’t good for you in the first place? One of the biggest threats to happiness at work is having too many fixed expenses at home. When you’re completely dependent on bringing home a pay check (or two!) every single month, you’re vulnerable. If work turns out to be unbearable you can’t simply up and leave and take three months without income. I’ve chosen low-rent living for myself. At first it was through accident rather than planning but now I would never live any other way. It has made me happy at work – and in life. Some years ago, my wonderful deceased wife Lotte and I were hunting for a new place to live in Kenya. We were living in a small, one bedroom bungalow right ny the ocean, but miles away from civilization and we really longed for more space, more rooms, a bigger kitchen, a larger bathroom etc. Homes are getting ludicrously expensive in Kenya not to mention in all European capitals, so we went through a process that is common to many people hunting for a new home: 1 We started looking at places within our budget that we could easily afford. 2 But those places weren’t really cool so we started looking at more and more expensive places 3 Until we’d reached our threshold of pain and were only considering the most expensive places we could conceivably afford
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ARE YOU AFRAID OF LOSING YOUR JOB? We actually submitted bids on two different (expensive) homes and narrowly lost out in each case to other bidders. Back then we were devastated – we really had our minds set on those two places. Later we’re incredibly relieved that it never came through. Until my return to the U.K. I still have this small bungalow in Kenya which costs me next to nothing and looking back I can see how much of an advantage that has been for the both me (as for both of us when my wife was alive). Now back in the U.K. I also invested in a small bungalow, low budget and no frills like large gardens, extra rooms etc. Obviously this applies not only to your mortgage or rent but to all fixed expenses. Rent/mortgage just happens to be the largest fixed expense most of us have.
Leaving lots of breathing room in my economy has brought me some huge advantages: 1: Freedom to leave a bad job
When a job doesn’t make me happy, I can quit without worrying about the money. I’ve done it four occasions, Lotte twice. It’s not that we’ve quit at the fist sign of trouble – we have always tried to make it work. But when we’ve realized that a particular job wasn’t going to make us happy, we’ve had the freedom to say “Sayonara” without first finding a new job.
2: Freedom to take a chance
In the U.K. start-up I’ve been running the past eight years I’ve been able to take some chances and focus more on building a happy, contented life style.
3: Freedom to do what I enjoy
I can decide to do stuff that lets me learn, meet interesting people or plain have fun but may not make any money here and now. This is a huge boon to me and my work in the long run because it means that I’m constantly developing and learning.
4: Freedom to do what’s right
I can do what’s right rather than what makes me more money. I can decide to work for free for a company or person that really needs me, but can’t afford me. I can give stuff away if I think people need it. I can set a high ethical standard and not need to worry about having to compromise it for profit.
5: Freedom to work fewer hours
There’s no pressure on me to work 50, 60 or 80 hours a week. I can if I want to and sometimes I do and if I’d rather work 20 hours or even less one week; I can do that. I’ve once and for all left the rat race.
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ARE YOU AFRAID OF LOSING YOUR JOB? 6: Freedom to say no to some customers/companies
Some customers and/or companies just aren’t right for my taste. The chemistry is wrong, their needs don’t match my solutions or they’re just too much trouble. I have the freedom to say no to some customers and yes to the best customers. All of the above really comes down to short-term vs. long-term planning. Economic freedom let’s you invest in your future by doing things now that make less money, but will eventually make you more.
7: Peace of mind
I spend almost zero time and energy worrying about money – it’s just not an issue. I also don’t need to worry whether the interest rates go up or down half a point. Or whether there really is a housing bubble and house prices are about to start falling. That’s a huge relief and gives me more time and energy for some work and life.
8: Focus on what really matters
When I’m not concerned with a bigger home, bigger car or bigger TV I focus on what really matters. My colleagues, associates, music, writing, networking, learning, reading, TV etc… I waste no time keeping up with the Joneses.
9: Simple living
Living in a small bungalow has taught me to own only the things I really need. I’ve been getting really good at throwing or giving away clothes, linens, kitchenware, furniture, knick-knacks etc. that I don’t use regularly. And this is a huge relief because I can form a huge attachment to the things I own and paring them down to only the things I really need teaches one to let go of that. There’s a mental relief and freedom that comes from that. Less stuff in your home = less stuff on your mind. This was the same principle when my wife was alive.
10: More money for fun stuff
When less money goes into the stuff I own, there’s more money for the stuff I do. Like music, travelling and more.
I want to make two things very clear: 1: This is not about being un-ambitious at work or setting work goals. I can assure you that my aspirations are as big as the next person’s. It’s about realizing that economic wiggle room frees you to do things and take chances that lead to more happiness and therefore to great results in your work life and your private life.
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ARE YOU AFRAID OF LOSING YOUR JOB? 2: I’m not knocking anybody else’s lifestyle and financial decisions. This is simply an observation of something that I discovered mostly by accident but which works incredibly well for me. Maybe you would be terribly miserable living in a small apartment or bungalow instead of a huge house or mansion. . But I know that many people feel trapped in jobs they don’t like because their financial situation is precarious and leaves them no wiggle room. If that’s the case for you maybe you should consider trying the low-rent life and granting yourself some financial freedom. It’s a huge step towards more happiness at work and in life. The cult of overwork is the prevailing belief that the more hours people work, the better for the company. That notion is not only harmful, it is dead wrong. When demand for a product is down, normally a company fires some people and makes the rest work twice as hard. So we put it to a vote of everyone in the plant. Back in the 80’s I worked for an Austrian/German Company where the management asked its employees what they wanted to do: layoffs for some workers or thirty-two-hour workweeks for everyone. They (the employees thought about it and decided they’d rather hold the team together. So we went down to a thirty-two-hour-a-week schedule for everyone furring a down time. We took everybody’s hours and salary down – executives too.
I discovered two surprises.
First, productivity did not decline. Would you believe it that the company got as much out of the employees at thirty-two hours as they did at forty? So it’s not a bad business decision. But second, when economic conditions improved, they offered the employees one hundred percent time again. When this happened; No one wanted to go back! Never in the wildest dreams would the managers have designed a four-day week. But it’s endured at the insistence of our employees. Interesting, huh? They cut back work-hours but production remains the same.
LIFE IS A BEACH If You Want It To Be
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