Redundancy fear

Worrying about your job security can affect your health and wellbeing.

'Don’t work longer hours than you need to just because you want to demonstrate your commitment' Professor Cary Cooper

"Job insecurity can have an impact both on the way individuals work and on the general atmosphere of the workplace," says Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology and health at Lancaster University Management School.

If people around you have been made redundant and you feel insecure about your job, you may start to behave differently, according to Cooper. Absences due to sickness tend to go down when people are worried about losing their job, and there is a higher level of what Cooper calls presenteeism.

"This is when people go to work early, stay late, are constantly in touch when they’re on holiday, work over weekends and send emails at night. These are all ways of trying to demonstrate to your employer that you’re there and you’re 100% committed to your job.

"But the danger of this type of behaviour," says Cooper, "is that by overworking you’re likely to exhaust yourself.

"It’s not good for your health and it’s not good for your productivity. If you spend more time at work, you’ll spend less time with your family and then problems may develop at home."

Problems in your domestic life can affect your work, making the situation worse.

When people feel insecure about their job, says Cooper, they try to protect themselves.

"It may be that people start to feel a little more competitive with colleagues or that they start to attend meetings they don’t really need to, just to be visible to their senior managers."

Cooper thinks people function less well in teams as a result of this type of behaviour. Instead of working together, they think more about their own interests.

Improve your wellbeing at work

There are a number of ways to cope with the fear of redundancy and continue to work effectively, says Cooper.

  • Don’t work longer hours than you need to just because you want to demonstrate your commitment. You have to have a good balance of work and leisure if you want to be resilient. Resist becoming a workaholic or you will exhaust yourself.
  • Be fully engaged with your work colleagues or team and focus on getting your job done.
  • Don’t go to meetings that aren't helpful to you.
  • Be focused. It’s more effective to work in short, intense bursts and then take a break.
  • If you’re feeling really insecure about your job, talk to your boss or to a trusted colleague. Tell him or her how you’re feeling. Rumours are often worse than the reality.
  • If you’re a manager, boost people’s morale by giving praise and don’t focus on finding fault.
  • Take regular exercise. Exercise won’t solve your problems if you’re feeling insecure about your job, but it improves your general wellbeing and makes you more able to put things in perspective.
  • Have breaks from work and spend time with colleagues at lunch or in the pub. Make sure you spend time with your family and friends as well. Having a social support system both at work and at home is very important for dealing with stressful situations such as job insecurity.

Further help and information

When to seek medical help

If you're still feeling anxious or low after a few weeks, see your GP. You may find that talking to a professional therapist helps and your GP can advise you on talking therapy services in your area.

You can also search NHS choices for psychological therapy services close to where you live.

Seek help immediately

If you start feeling like you really can't cope, life is becoming too difficult or your life isn't worth living, get help straight away. These are signals that you need to talk to someone.

As above, either see your GP or contact a helpline such as the Samaritans (08457 90 90 90), which provides confidential, non-judgemental emotional support. 

Media last reviewed: 26/06/2013

Next review due: 26/06/2015

Page last reviewed: 23/05/2013

Next review due: 23/05/2015

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