By Sunit Bezbaroowa April 2003 To be without a job in a society where one’s worth is most often valued in terms of one’s pay packet, is the grim reality that faces many office goers. And only those who read the signs much in advance and prepare for the inevitable, take the change in their stride Your boss calls you to his office. When you enter, there is a sudden silence. Then comes the inevitable. The company is cutting its costs and you are one of the unlucky few who has to go. You are devastated. Questions start crowding your mind: “How will I meet my expenses? Where will I find another job? What will happen to me?” The recent economic instability has made this scenario a grim reality. With most companies cutting down their manpower, about 30 per cent of salaried people in the private sector have been either without jobs in the last few years, or have been forced into self-employment. Even those who were retained live under the constant threat of the golden or not-so-golden handshake. “I faced a lot of difficulties when I was chucked out of my job,” says Amith Rajan, an accountant, who was working for a reputed Indian bank. “The management decided to sack 26 people. We were left with no choice but to comply. This is killing me. I am jobless and broke.” Dr Sanjay Chugh, honorary consultant psychiatrist with Sri Ganga Ram Hospital, informs: “The job insecurity has been there for the last two years and shows no signs of improving. It has resulted in tremendous stress leading to an increase in the intake of alcohol and sleeping pills. Even relationships are affected when a person is under stress.” Especially when most people are usually unprepared for such eventualities. For the perceptive few, however, the warning signs are apparent. Your boss stops giving you enough work. Takes most of the key responsibilities off you. You are either ignored or frequently criticised. The company starts cutting costs at every level. So, even if the management does not send out a notice about its impending decrease in the work force, you can always read between the lines and prepare to cut the umbilical cord. Vijay Batra, management guru and vice president of Father Son & Co, agrees: “An employee would be blind if he cannot sense in advance that his company is going to sack him. One should be prepared for such eventualities, to wake up and smell the coffee.” But he also feels that being fired need not be the end of the world. “Real talent never dies. Even if one gets sacked, one shouldn’t lose heart but look for better jobs, which are plenty.” ‘Plenty’ might be too rosy a word for the present job market, but normally, if you are a highly talented person, you are likely to bag a good offer sooner or later. In this scenario, the US fetish for high-specialty is giving way to a demand for multiple capability employee profiles. Because, when a company cuts its costs, it requires people who can do various kinds of work and take multiple responsibilities to keep the company functioning. How to Handle Job Insecurity 1. If you get sacked - Don’t get overwhelmed by the situation and focus on what to do next. - Look up different jobs in newspapers and take help -from career-agents. - Consult career counselors- Consult a psychiatrist if you feel on the verge of a breakdown. - If there was a large downsizing in your organization, form a support group. 2. Know Your Office Environment- Develop a good rapport with your boss and colleagues. -Share common interests with your fellow workers. Work together and form an ‘interest group’ to feel secure. - Be alert to any change of attitude in your boss. 3. Other Avenues are Open - Think positively and progressively. -Spend some time in meditation, yoga or other relaxation techniques to free your mind from unwanted worries. - Widen your vision of thinking. New opportunities are waiting to be explored. In fact, for much of the present generation, lack of job security is part of life. The trend had set in when, instead of the much-in-demand, secure government jobs, more and more people started opting for the private sector. In recent years, the demand for government jobs has seen a further setback with increasing privatization. The slow growth in career and low salaries compared to the private sector are the main reasons, as well as nepotism and undue interference in promotions. Joy Goswami, who was a government contractor, comments: “All government activities are tardy and it takes ages to clear bills. I still have a lot of pending bills. Such uncertainty and financial insecurity has prompted me to join the private sector.” Najma Akhtar, who is disillusioned with government jobs, adds: “Each time my promotion came up in my 12 years of service, the post was given to some minister’s or bureaucrat’s favorite.” But the private sector is not faring any better today. Corporate restructuring, mergers and acquisitions or organizational downsizing are the main factors for cutting down of workforce. Fortune 500 companies alone have reduced their workforce from an aggregate 14.1 million employees to 11.6 million between 1983 and 1993. Also, departure of one or more persons from the organization makes the remaining workers feel insecure. Especially if it is caused by downsizing. Not knowing how the management evaluates the worth of each staff member, they begin to feel that they could well be next on the sacking list. The threat looms large and it consequently affects the remaining employees—mentally and physically. Studies have shown that employees under severe stress show a decline in performance. Sunaina Mehra, an employee with Selcom Technologies, comments: “Last year we had a major downsizing. We could not figure out the reason. Our bosses said that it was because the sacked workers weren’t performing well. But we are not so sure. We all are very tense.” At such a time, most people feel that any means to hang on to your job would do. Peter Lyngdoh, an executive with a multinational company, suggests: “Maintain a good rapport with your bosses. A bit of flattering helps.” Depressing, but true. Yet, you can also achieve the same security by excelling in your work. Several researches have been conducted on job insecurity. Here, factors such as job satisfaction, employee turnover and health were also taken into account. Results indicate that employees who report high perceptions of job insecurity exhibit decreased safety motivation. Which, in turn, is related to higher levels of workplace injuries. Job insecurity also leads to job dissatisfaction—resulting in work withdrawal behaviors. So, how does one cope with this increasing threat of job insecurity? And, to what extent is job insecurity required to make workers better their best? According to US-based career counselor Martin Campbell: “The only way you can cope with job insecurity is by accepting it. Be prepared. Keep your options open. Whenever you get a better job offer, go for it. This is the time when company loyalties are passé. You are on your own.” Every employer and employee needs to perform their own duties to ensure a smooth running of the workplace. If an organization is required to sack some employees, then practically nothing can be done on the part of the employee, except to look for a new job. We just need to have a little patience and look around for the right break. Maybe, then we will stop seeking job security! As Batra rightly points out: “There is nothing riskier than seeking job security in your job. Instead, seek more learning.”
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