The labour market and the nature of work itself have changed substantially in the past 30-40 years: for example, there was an increase in precarious employment, new production systems, downsizing, outsourcing, privatization of public services, new jobs and professional profiles.
These aspects – together with particular employment conditions and the way the work is organized – increase job insecurity, that can be defined as a psychosocial stressor at the professional level, caused by employment conditions and work organization, and reflecting a worker’s perceptions of fear of job loss or instability.
Job insecurity is particularly problematic because it is unpredictable and uncontrollable. By reducing these variables, the negative consequences could be mitigated, but this is not always possible and feasible.
In literature, it was observed that some mitigating variables can weaken the effect of job insecurity on well-being. These variables are: 1) Social support (from family, colleagues, friends); 2) Increase in stress-coping skills; 3) Development of new professional and interpersonal skills.
It’s important to point out that not everything is under our control: we can control our CHOICES and our ACTIONS, but we CANNOT control EMOTIONS, THOUGHTS, OTHERS, PAST or FUTURE.
Starting from this assumption, we can affirm that a flexible mind is more effective than a rigid one in order to manage job insecurity.
- Being “anchored” to the past (constantly thinking about how it was better before, maybe in your previous work, regretting the choices made, wondering why it happened, thinking only of memories of past times…);
- Making bad predictions about the future (catastrophizing or always having negative images of the future);
- Acting in an ineffective way (e.g. waiting for the situation to change, estranging oneself, practicing self-pity, continually discussing what could be done and not done, complaining about the choices of the leaders or the government …);
- Listening only to thoughts and worries without acting.
- Adapting by implementing the most suitable strategy for each circumstance;
- Acting, moving, trying and making mistakes, without waiting for the best moment;
- Recognizing what is important and useful, always having a clear idea of our goals and how to achieve them;
- Being alert, paying attention to the changes in the world around and within us;
- Getting involved.
Some examples of effective behaviour to cope with job insecurity are:
- Remain active in the labour market (register or update your profile online or on a professional social network, make yourself known online or in your city);
- Keep updated on the labour market news, on the opportunities/public initiatives/active policies, on the economic aid provided;
- Increase your network of contacts, enrich your curriculum (e.g. by attending specific courses, following webinars, learning a new language, …);
- Join a trade association or a group of professionals that will keep you updated and in contact with each other.
During a period of job insecurity, you may experience discouragement, bad mood and anger, even economic concerns for the future, moments in which you can feel ashamed or blame yourself. It is not possible to voluntarily get rid of your psychological suffering, but you can avoid increasing it artificially.
“What will happen if my contract is not renewed?” “If my business doesn’t start again in time, I will lose all my clients” “How will I live and support my family if I can’t work?” “How unlucky I am! Covid happened now that I have just opened my new business” “And I will have to skip the holidays also this time…”
These legitimate thoughts lead us to focus on what is not under our control, instead of adopting those useful behaviours that are under our control.
Let us learn to accept what is beyond our personal control and commit ourselves to taking actions that enrich our lives!
Silvia Zoni, PhD in Occupational Medicine, Psychologist, Psychotherapist, Consultant