7 strategies for dealing with the stress of career uncertainty

As we approach World Mental Health Day, October 10, economic uncertainty and workplace issues continue to weigh on workers and managers globally, causing enormous anxiety. The World Health Organization reports that depression and anxiety cost the global economy a billion dollars a year, mainly due to reduced productivity. But career trajectories are full of unknowns and we can’t always know future outcomes. Will I be hired for the position? Will I get a good enough raise? Will my colleagues like my presentation? Can I find a job that I really like? Will the MRI results end my career?

The drivers of career uncertainty

Our functional brain is programmed with the great responsibility of keeping us safe and secure. Inevitable career uncertainty instantly triggers fight-or-flight responses, and we automatically interpret uncertainty as a threat. The boss looks at you over her glasses in a meeting and you decide you’re in trouble. A coworker uses a certain tone in a message and you assume he’s crazy. The recruiter doesn’t respond to his email and you’re convinced you didn’t get the job. Your company lays off a ton of employees and your neck is on the line.

Workplace uncertainty is at an all-time high these days as employees and employers face tight budgets, inflation issues, and heated debates about remote work versus in-office work, just to name a few. Adobe surveyed more than 6,000 managers and workers at companies and small businesses across eight global markets. Some of their discoveries include:

  • Economic instability and inflation are the biggest drivers of uncertainty, felt by seven out of 10 managers and employees.
  • Economic instability/inflation (79%), gun violence (65%), and politics and elections (62%) are the top concerns in the US
  • 80% of employees have found that at least one global issue of concern has a negative impact on their productivity and overall job satisfaction, and that number rises to 93% for Gen Z and 87% for Millennials.
  • Three in four employees report that breaking news typically affects their workday for at least a few hours, and 44% of employees feel more anxious and discouraged during work than ever before.
  • 58% of employees and managers say work is a welcome distraction in uncertain times.
  • 70% report that they rely on digital tools for peace of mind at work, to stay productive when they have difficulty concentrating, and to alleviate the stress of completing work when a coworker needs time off to process unexpected events.
  • Seven in 10 employees and managers say digital tools help support managers in facilitating well-being checks with employees.

Seven tips for dealing with career uncertainty

Research shows that when employees are unsure whether they will be fired, their job satisfaction and productivity decrease. To maintain career security, your best defense is to ask yourself: Does career uncertainty affect you? Or do you have it? Here are seven strategies that can help you manage anxiety:

  1. Focus on what you can control. Despite your best efforts, things won’t always go as planned. The first step is to remember that expectations will go wrong and unknown events and disappointments will blindside you. When uncertainty is unacceptable, you amplify your fear and end up at war with yourself, resisting and discussing your career instead of living it. Consider accepting what you can’t control and focusing on what you he can to control. Focus on the things around you that you can manage or create to empower yourself and not feel like a victim, waiting for the ax to fall.
  2. Exercise self-care. Take microbreaks and practice workflow meditations throughout the workday to stay calm. Stay in shape by sleeping, exercising and eating the balanced diet your body needs. Avoid junk food, excess alcohol and nicotine. When you’re in an insecure waiting period, immerse yourself in the little things you look forward to and that bring you joy: gardening, reading a good novel, getting a massage, meditating, taking a hot bath, or having friends over.
  3. Look for the opportunity in difficulty. Yale neuroscientists have discovered that uncertainty can be healthy for your brain because you learn more in uncertain situations. In a predictable environment, your brain doesn’t need to do as much. He becomes a kind of couch potato. But when situations change, it works more. Entering an unfamiliar situation increases the brain’s tendency to absorb additional information. These findings reflect the importance of stepping out of your comfort zone to cultivate a growth mindset and build resilience for career success.
  4. Keep a curious mind. Curiosity and anxiety cannot coexist. When you decide out of fear before each new experience, you become ungraspable and can no longer receive insights. Opening your mind with curiosity empties your mind of expectations, allowing you to welcome teachable moments into new career situations. Learning to embrace maybe can also help you become more comfortable with uncertainty and open you up to possibilities.
  5. Cultivate optimism. It is common knowledge that optimists climb the career ladder faster and further than pessimists. When you highlight the negative aspects of your career, it can kill hope and enthusiasm and diminish the enthusiasm and motivation that keep you engaged and productive. If you keep your focus on the upsides of a negative career path, you’ll have a better chance of overcoming obstacles and moving up the career ladder faster and further than your fellow pessimists.
  6. Turn unknowns into adventures instead of problems. On autopilot, our brain tricks us into looking at the unknown as a threat or problem that needs to be solved. But we have the choice to view the unknown as problems that create stress or as adventures that create excitement. When you flip this perspective, it welcomes possibilities and solutions rather than eclipsing them with problems. Studies show that this shift in perspective leaves you feeling empowered and less anxious, rather than victimized by uncertainty.
  7. Take a risk. The same assumptions that keep us safe also keep us from growing and reaching our professional destinies. Avoiding career uncertainty may make you think you’re safe and sound, but the cocoon you build becomes a virtual prison. Experts insist that the cost of inaction is much more painful and offers no lessons for growing or achieving your professional dreams. So build your risk-taking muscles early and often by making small, new choices every day. Find a place in your career where you are hiding and ask how far you can go in your work.

Employers can help with uncertainty in the workplace by creating a predictable culture. When employees can count on a measure of psychological safety, it reduces stress, turnover and safety incidents and increases productivity. Psychological safety is greater when employers have consistent contact and frequent check-ins with their employees. Increases engagement, increases motivation and increases performance. It is important for business leaders to provide clearly defined work roles and objectives, along with leaders with predictable personalities who can create a stable work culture.

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Image Source : www.forbes.com

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