How to Handle Job Insecurity

In our tumultuous times, there is lots of job insecurity. You may fear the loss of your job, or have already lost it.  And, you may be having difficulty looking for, or finding another job. You are not alone in all this, as job insecurity and loss is affecting people all over the world.

Losing a job with little chance of finding another one affects more than just your paycheck. You lose one of your greatest sources of comfort and security and self-esteem. What is more, research shows you also are at risk of losing your health. In fact, in one study, chronic job insecurity was a stronger predictor of poor health than either smoking or hypertension (Job Insecurity Worse on Health ).

Well, what can you do to handle these undermining effects on you of our severe economic downturn, and survive and thrive nonetheless?   An important part of the answer is to have hardiness.

Hardiness is a pattern of attitudes and strategies that help you turn potential disasters into advantageous growth opportunities instead.  The hardy attitudes are the 3Cs of challenge, commitment, and control.  If you are strong in challenge, you believe that life is by its nature stressful, and that addressing these stresses directly helps you to learn, grow, and develop toward fulfillment.  Just avoiding stresses seems to you like giving up on life, rather than making it better.  If you are strong in commitment, you believe that no matter how bad things get, you are better off to stay involved with the people and events around you, rather than back away into isolation and alienation.  And, if you are strong in control, you believe that no matter how bad things get, it is best for you to continue to try to have an influence on outcomes, rather than let yourself sink into powerlessness and passivity.  Together, these 3Cs constitute the courage and motivation to do the hard work of actually turning stresses to advantage.

There are particular ways in which hardy attitudes will help with job insecurity.  If you are at risk of losing your job, due to downsizing in your company, you need to figure out what you can do to make sure that it is not you who is let go.  A strong sense of challenge will make it more possible for you to think clearly about what is happening, as you will recognize that the disruption is natural, and something to be learned from.  In this process, you will want to stay committed to, and involved with your work and interaction with fellow employees and decision-makers, rather than pull out emotionally and cognitively, either by avoiding people or reacting angrily to them.  If anything, you will try to gain control by deepening your relationships, so that you may be seen as more central to the survival of the company.  And, in this process, you will keep trying to have an influence on decisions that are made, however difficult this may be for you.  And, if the situation is that you have already lost your job, then the hardy attitudes will take over your search for another job.  In this process, you will try to understand what led to you, rather than others, being terminated.  You will try to learn from what happened, and use that in the process of finding another job.  You will not just give up, or hate the system.  Instead, you will try to figure out how your skills can influence getting another job, or whether you need to develop additional skills to make this happen.  You will not just blame others for your loss, and distrust the decision-makers involved in other jobs you try to get.

In this developmental process, the hardy attitudes will provide the courage and motivation to do the hard work needed to keep your job, or find another one.  This hard work is what the hardy strategies of problem-solving coping, socially-supportive interactions, and beneficial self-care are all about.  Problem-solving coping involves facing the job stresses, deepening your understanding of what has happened, and using what you learn from this in trying to resolve the stressful circumstances, rather than just avoiding them in order to feel better.  Socially-supportive interactions involve recognizing when there are conflicts between the people involved, and trying to resolve these conflicts by assisting and encouraging them, which will increase the likelihood that they will do the same for you.  This hardy coping will be much more likely to be effective in keeping or getting your job, in contrast to the disasters that result from denying and avoiding the conflicts.  And beneficial self-care involves eating, drinking and relaxing in ways that facilitates rather than undermines physical health.  In this, you are much less likely to eat too much sweet and fatty food, use alcohol and drugs, and engage in gambling and excessive spending, just in hopes that these health undermining activities will distract you from the stresses of job insecurity or loss.

If you keep practicing the hardy attitudes and strategies, you will not only feel better about employment insecurity or loss, but also grow and develop so as to increase your likelihood of keeping your job or getting another one.  There is more than 35 years of research done all around the world that validates how hardy people in many different work situations not only survive, but also thrive under all sorts of stresses.  If they are hardy, they show enhanced performance, stamina, health, and conduct.  It is certainly true that, if you have not functioned in a hardy way all along, it is difficult to persist with the hardy attitudes and strategies.  We encourage you to just keep trying, and you will see that the feedback you get makes what you have to do easier and easier.

Fortunately, there are now hardiness assessment and training programs that can also help you.  For assessment, go to www.HardinessInstitute.com, take the test, and receive your report on not only your hardy attitudes and skills, but also your stress resilience and vulnerability.

For training on line, go to www.HardiTraining.coursehost.com, and you will experience relevant exercises, guided by the underlying ideas and concepts and case studies.

If you like this post, please let Dr. Sal Maddi know by selecting the “Like” button that immediately follows this article. He welcomes your thoughts and comments. Dr. Maddi will be writing articles on hardiness regularly for us now. I’m excited to have such an expert of Dr. Maddi’s caliber join the Psychology in Everyday Life team.

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About Salvatore R. Maddi

The child of immigrant parents, Dr. Maddi knew about the importance of resilience and courage from an early age. After receiving his Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Harvard University in 1960, Professor Maddi taught at the University of Chicago for 26 years, and transferred to the University of California, Irvine in 1986. He is licensed for clinical, health, and forensic practice. Having done his internship at Judge Baker Guidance Center (Boston, MA), he gained much experience in guiding parents in helping their youngsters develop. Sal has published 9 books and 100 papers on such topics as creativity, stress mastery, hardiness, performance, development, and health. His classic book, Personality Theories: A Comparative Analysis, published in 1969, is now in its 6th edition, and has been translated into several foreign languages. Always involved in practice and consulting, he founded the Hardiness Institute in 1984. For many years, he has done family therapy, especially helping parents to further the development of their offspring. In his influential study of the effects of the U.S. deregulation of its telephone industry, hardiness emerged as the pattern of courage and skills that help people be resilient by turning stressful circumstances from potential disasters into growth opportunities instead. Since that time, voluminous research and practice on hardiness has validated that position. Now, hardiness assessment and training is used in businesses, colleges, and military and safety organizations, and receives regular media coverage. Maddi says, “When you can navigate professional and personal changes in a way that furthers your and your company’s goals, strengthens your ability to turn adversity to advantage, and deepens professional and personal meaning, you succeed as a leader and a person. That is the Way of Hardiness.”

12 Responses to “How to Handle Job Insecurity”

  1. avatar Deana says:

    I loved this article! Thanks so much.

  2. avatar amanda says:

    A wonderful, helpful and very timely article. Thank you for sharing, Dr. Maddi!

  3. avatar Christine Griffith says:

    This article is amazing and much needed! Dr. Maddi is one of the most influential researchers and psychologists of our time. I have been applying the hardiness model to my life ever since I learned about it as his student and research assistant at UCI years ago. I make it point to incorporate hardiness and resilience into my practice with my clients. I am so glad that Dr. Maddi has joined Psychology in Everyday Life! Thank you!

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Thank you so much Christine. I hope all is well with you.

      • A HARDY ATTITUDE AND A SPIRIT OF GRATITUDE. AT TIMES CAN BE, FOR ME ELUSIVE. THOUGH I CONTINUE TO PERSEVERE .I THANK YOU FOR A CLEAR INSIGHT ON THE SUBJECT OF PERSONAL GROWTH.

        • I am so glad that you persevere. Yes, you need both the courage of hardy attitudes, and the appreciation of others. Hardiness does not suggest that you should get ahead by disabling others. That way does not lead to personal growth. Keep up the good work, and thank you for your fine response to my article. Let’s keep in touch.
          Cheers in the good life,
          Sal Maddi

    • Thank you so much, Christine. It’s so good to hear from you again. I remember you well, and it looks as if your career is going well, as I would expect by your emphasis on resilience and hardiness under stress.

  4. Thank you so much for your enthusiastic replies, Deana and Amanda. Also, thanks to all of you who like the article. I hope hardiness works for everyone.

  5. Glad to read this article. But Dr. Maddi, there is a question. Don’t you think cultural differences have rigorous impacts on stress management?

    • avatar Dr. Deborah Khoshaba says:

      Dear friend, Thank you so much for your provocative question, in response to my comment on how to handle job insecurity. The position I am taking is that, regardless of the culture, what helps most in stress management is hardiness, which is the pattern of courage, motivation, and strategies that helps one to turn stressful circumstances from potential disasters into growth opportunities instead. There is lots of research that shows this. Most of the research involves people in the US, and shows that hardiness is positively related to performance, and health under stress. Also, there are also studies showing this pattern of hardiness leading to enhanced performance under stress in immigrants to the US, and in US company or military personnel serving abroad. Also, Norwegian military also show the pattern of enhanced performance due to hardiness.
      Further, in studies done in the US, there appears no difference in hardiness and its positive effects on performance and health, regardless of the cultural background of the subjects. But, of course, these subjects have been in the US for some time, and may even have been born here.
      There is not enough research yet to determine whether different cultures have members who differ in hardiness levels. But, even if that were true, it is still my position that hardiness helps in stress management in all cultures, even though the signs and expressions of this courage, motivation, and strategies may differ across cultures. I hope this helps.
      Cheers, Salvatore R. Maddi

      • Thanks for replying. That’s cool, actually I asked my professor about hardiness and its implications for our country. He says “once you become hardy, you will be an active rather passive citizen.” As you said and your books elaborate that hardiness is same for many social groups and ethnic minorities. However, there are few exceptions.

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