Fear of the unknown is the most crippling fear known to man. Whether its health, work, relationships or just life in general; this fear has its way of reaching the very core of our existence and gnawing at it. When uncertainty results from work situations, it is dire because our work supports most spheres of our lives. Sometimes companies, regardless of size and market share, face crises of a devastating nature that leave them bankrupt, closing up shop, merging or being acquired by larger competitors. The job uncertainty that comes with such situations is an extremely stressful time, not only for the employer, investors and suppliers, but for the employees as well. Rumors and conspiracy theories at the time get bigger and uglier with each passing second and most employees fear the worst is knocking at their doors.
While each situation is different, and while it is an extremely personal decision on whether to stay or abandon ship, the following aspects will help you survive and thrive through uncertainty.
Constantly be in the know
Information is power. Being consciously aware of the situation your company is in greatly helps. Read the signs early enough; the management crisis, the more-losses-than-profits state that has been the norm in the recent past, the hush meetings behind closed doors, etc. The worst case scenario as an employee is being caught unaware. This does not mean that you pointlessly follow all the petty gossip that goes around the office. Choose the information that keeps you updated on the goings of the company. Keenly follow market reviews by critics and experts in the news and from your professional connections. This will help you monitor key changes and assist you make informed decisions when the time comes.
Clearly understand the crisis
Each company faces teething problems and growing pains in its journey to growth and expansion. When your company is facing a crisis, ensure that you clearly understand what is going on. This means that you need to be informed on market jargon, understand the traits of different circumstances and the ripple effect each has. This way, you will be able to comprehend exactly what is happening, the magnitude of the repercussions to your employer and to you, and whether staying on will be worth it. Usually, when a company is facing growing pains, the employees that stay onboard and help it find footing are rewarded for their loyalty when the storm passes.
Be ready for varied possibilities
Uncertainty takes away the luxury of planning and the feeling of being in control. During these times, people feel lost and destabilized. It is very easy to make impulsive and rush decisions. The best way to approach it is to calmly plan for any eventuality. Take the best and worst case scenarios and plan for them. For the best case scenario, see the crisis as an opportunity to propel your career to the next level. While your colleagues are panicking and running around, strategically plan to move up higher. Plan for the next step and begin gaining the necessary information to help you get there. Plan for the training you might need and the connections you might need to make. For the worst case scenario, clean your financial closet and ensure that you have enough to keep you going in case you find yourself without a source of income. Also, if you realize your company’s crisis situation will not end soon, a stealth job search is advisable.
Understand your personal situation
Closely examine your risk options. Do you have dependents? Do you have a spouse that can hold fort while you find your next footing? Do you have another source of income that can support your livelihood? The answer to those questions will greatly contribute to your personal decision. It is wise to remember that uncertainty at work will have emotional impact on you and the ones close to you. Your family and friends will bear the brunt of the stressful situations you face, and you need to understand when limits are hit.
Understand your employment situation
Do you have a contract? Do you understand what it says? What level are you on in the employment hierarchy? It will help you a great deal to have a clear understanding of where you stand in the company’s “food chain”. This is because when some companies face financial crisis they begin cutting budgets and relieving staff of their duties. Understanding your employment situation helps you predict company decisions and prepare for any eventuality.
In conclusion, understand that how you handle crises is a reflection of your individuality, maturity level, resilience and flexibility. People who matter are watching your behavior during a crisis and it is advisable to maintain professionalism at all times. Resist the temptation to complain and grumble, especially in the hearing of your bosses. Be calm and remember the storm will pass, leaving you stronger and wiser.