Dean Buckley: Five ways to cope with job insecurity (@Work Advice Contest, Round 2)

October 5, 2011

Dean Buckley is one of the eight remaining finalists in The Washington Post Magazine’s @Work Advice Contest. For Round 2, we asked: What is the biggest problem in today’s workplace, and how can it be solved?

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“Psycho.” “Maneater.” “Tool.” These descriptions of “Horrible Bosses” still adorn billboards across the country, touting a movie revenge comedy in which abused workers plot to murder their supervisors.

Um, murder? Why not just, as the song goes, take this job and shove it? Turns out that’s not so simple in 2011. With a shifting employment landscape and the country in economic turmoil, layoffs and prolonged unemployment seem to loom around every corner.

This lack of job security may be the greatest challenge workers face today. It stifles risk-taking, compounds stress and other health issues, and hands even more power to the devils wearing Prada.


Dean Buckley

How do you deal with it? Here are my top five suggestions:

Just Say Yes. If you’ve ever uttered the words “That’s not in my job description,” take this to heart: Industries are crumbling and new opportunities emerging at a quickening pace. Be flexible. Someone is indeed moving your cheese; follow that cheddar by agreeing to new responsibilities and becoming less expendable in the process.

Make Peace with Your Difficult Boss… as best you can. Yes, your boss is a gonad. But you can minimize the pain: Honestly examine your role in the disagreements, build your empathy, and find ways to let bad behavior wash over you. Workplaces may offer courses on conflict resolution and personality types. Friends, college career centers, places of worship, and community organizations can help provide reflection, insight and calmness.

Have a Plan. You dream of getting ahead, or getting out? Turn that dream into a plan of action, whether it’s expanding your social network, pursuing a new degree or sitting in on meetings of a different department. Knowing that you’re taking concrete steps will help alleviate anxiety when uncertainty about your job creeps in. “What Color Is Your Parachute?” sets the bar for career exploration books.

Take Care of Yourself. You understand this and yet you still stay late in the office, eat take-out at your desk for lunch, and miss sleep. Exercise, rest and attending to personal relationships are essential to doing good work. Consider it part of your job. Also: Having fun at work is a proven productivity builder. Carve out some time to play with your colleagues. (In my company, we occasionally go bowling or to the mini golf field.)

Save Up. Does losing your job today mean you’ll be out on the street tomorrow? Does your pulse quicken with every dismal quarterly earnings report? Are your credit cards maxing out? Experts say you should have a buffer of three months’ living expenses in the bank at all times. Build a new budget and stick to it. This stress insurance takes the bite out of layoff rumors and keeps you calm when your boss flips out.

There are so many more ways to address these issues, of course. I’d love to hear your stories and ideas on how to triumph over job insecurity in the comments section. But please, no murder plots.

Whose advice did you like best? Vote for your favorite contestant

Read each contestant’s Round 2 answers

Leslie Anderson | Dean Buckley | Cindy Coe | Rachel Homer | Abbey Kos | Karla Miller | Richard Wong | Michele Woodward

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Read each contestant’s Round 1 answers

Leslie Anderson | Dean Buckley | Cindy Coe | Moira Forbes | Rachel Homer | Abbey Kos | Karla Miller | Nikki Stevens | Richard Wong | Michele Woodward

Meet the @Work Advice Contest’s 10 finalists

Leslie Anderson | Dean Buckley | Cindy Coe | Moira Forbes | Rachel Homer | Abbey Kos | Karla Miller | Nikki Stevens | Richard Wong | Michele Woodward

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