How the Fear of Losing My Job Helped Me to Grow

Note: This is a guest post by Karl Staib of Work Happy Now!

Working for a company that might be cutting jobs can force the energy right out of you if you don't take some steps to set your perspective on the positive.

There are usually three perspectives that dictate our emotional outlook.

  1. Relaxing in the now.
  2. Imagining that things will get better.
  3. The problem itself.

Out of the three options, which one do you think will only make problems worse?

Maybe the question is a little too easy, but why do so many people keep doing it?

Worrying is bad for your happiness

Worrying is a common habit that makes us feel like we are accomplishing something, when in reality we are only creating more fear.

Most of us have been in situations where we feel like we might lose our jobs because we don't connect with the person that holds our fate in his/her hands. There are three main ways people handle this situation.

  1. Just keep going. The select few just keep going about their day, trying their best and not feeling bothered by the day to day drama, knowing that any mistake that they have made is in the past and there is nothing they can do about it now.
  2. Imagine how it will get better. Another group of emotionally smart people see the problem and imagine how it will get better. Their optimistic outlook helps them get through difficult situations. They aren’t any different than you and me, but they know that worrying only makes the situation worse.
  3. Fret. Then there is the majority of the people that fret until the situation passes.

I used to be in that fretting group. I had a job that kept me on the fringes of being fired for a couple of weeks. Every little mistake left this lingering feeling that today would be the day the HR manager would walk up to my cubicle and tell me, “I’m sorry to tell you that we are going to have to let you go. Please gather your personal belongings so I can walk you out.”

My stomach churned every time I walked through the entrance. My sleep was sporadic throughout the night and all I wanted to do was quit. I stayed on because I needed the money and that need outweighed any uncomfortable feelings.

There I was, caught in thoughts of worry. I tried not caring, but that didn’t work. I tried the technique of imagining my work life getting better, even if it was only a five minute conversation at the copier with a co-worker. That helped, but only to a certain level. I was still feeling uneasy until I applied a little creative action.

As the days passed and I still had a job, I tried things to help keep my job. I showed up a little earlier than usual. I offered to do other people’s work. I came up with a youth outreach program at our closest high school. The managers loved it. I was back in the good graces of my manager, my co-workers and the other managers.

I always kept my resume updated and I sent it out every weekend. The economy wasn't doing well, so I had to stay with what I had, but it was an emotionally tough time.

By getting into the thick of my fear I learned two valuable lessons:

Help Others Achieve Their Goals

Use that fear, which is usually focused on what will happen to you, and allow that focus to help someone else. When you are worried about making a mistake, you may be afraid to make good decisions. Ask co-workers if you can help them with a project that they are working on. By giving them your time, you are making yourself more useful and taking your focus off the fear. You'll be surprised at how people will react toward your kindness and your boss will want to keep someone that makes a difference in other people's lives.

Create Action

By creating action out of your fear instead of waiting for the hammer to drop, you will be able to steer yourself out of trouble. You may be on the cusp of being downsized, but don't let that stop you from being active in your work. When you keep yourself moving, you'll be creating an environment that helps you stay focused on the moment instead of letting the fear take over. Who knows… you may be able to inject some new life into your job and encourage management to keep you.

When you use your energy to focus on the fear, you’re only increasing your awareness of the problem, which by default increases your worry. By moving your energy toward something constructive you can reduce your worry and accomplish something important.

Karl Staib writes about unlocking and kicking open the door to working happy at his own blog: Work Happy Now! If you enjoyed this article, you may like to subscribe to his feed or read one of his most popular articles, 7 Tips to Process Your Stress Faster.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • If that is what it takes to respond in a positive way with others at work, then I wish everyone was afraid for their jobs!

    Great post with many good ideas on how to get more connected with others at work and improve your own image in the workplace. Thanks for posting!

  • Tara

    Generalized a little, this is good advice for anywhere that one is experiencing FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) and wants to move beyond it. Saved to my notebook!

    Luckily for me, the few times I’ve been laid off have resulted in great opportunities – either to grow or change my career and follow a dream – but that didn’t stop the gut-wrenching anxiety waiting for the lay off to come. I wish I’d read this then.

  • Another great lesson on taking responsibility. Oh how often we let fear stifle us and rob us from what could be so good. Great job of showing how to turn that fear around.

    I teach people to keep a solution based mindset to everything. If you focus on the problem (like you said) it only gets worse. If you focus on the solution to the problem your mind automatically creates ways to to solve the problem at hand. Problems are negative in nature while solutions are positive in nature.

  • All great points. The Positivity Blog has some knowledgeable readers. I wish that I would have thought of some of their points in my post.

  • Fear is a great motivator. Fear provides us the fuel to take the kind of action that we would not take under normal circumstances. Sometimes I wish I could generate that type of adrenaline on a daily basis.

  • Wouldn’t you want to add to those strategies “start looking for another job”? That means more than sending out a resume once a week–it means networking, calling in favors, and quietly getting the word out among friends in the industry. If you’re concerned that you’re about to be laid off and you have good reason to be concerned, the sooner you can get on the job market the better. Even in recessionary times, it’s easier to find a job while you’ve got a job.

  • Thank you all for sharing your knowledge and thanks to Karl for writing this helpful post.

  • Adrian

    As I sit here superimposing my face on a variety of funny images and emailing them to friends ( – LOL – I wanted to say that everyone today should have at least an idea of opportunities available in their industry, etc. (keep tabs on the market) even if they do have a job. With today’s uncertainty it’s good to get a head start, network and and have a “plan b” or backup plan should they need it.