The modern workplace is plagued with a lot of uncertainty these days.
If it is not disruption of your offerings by the latest shiny toy, it is disruption of the work culture through modern trends like remote working, the gig economy or AI, the latest buzzword. There is a lot of workplace uncertainty in the midst of mass restructuring as companies look to get leaner and adapt to the changing times.
While it has always been the order of the day, work uncertainty particularly seems to have heightened since the global pandemic in 2020.
Many people lost their jobs as businesses were forced to shut down (some never to reopen), while others shifted to the work-from-home formula during the lockdown. Some continue to do so until today.
There are also those who left work during the pandemic but found themselves returning to new roles when the world reopened.
This has resulted in a lot of uncertainty in the workplace, the result of which has been heightened stress levels; stress levels that have been exacerbated by the soaring inflation that has ensued since.
Job uncertainty is never a good thing, and research shows that it causes more mental and physical health issues than – yup – losing a job.
So, what is an employee to do?
Risk Taking vs. Playing Safe
Uncertainty is a part of life. It is not unique to our jobs or businesses.
But does that mean it is okay?
Of course not!
Dealing with work uncertainty is never an ideal situation to find yourself in. But considering it seems to be a norm in this fast-paced world of today, it doesn’t mean you should worry yourself to death or cry yourself to sleep every night either.
The best thing you can do is to take action to get yourself out of the situation. It’s easy to say, obviously; but so is getting comfortable in the discomfort the uncertainty brings and being hesitant to take risks. Playing safe, if you will.
As humans, we love certainty. We love the surety of a non-disruptive tomorrow and we naturally go to great lengths to maintain that status quo. It’s called the comfort zone.
While that may seem like the safe option to take, it is all built on a shaky foundation known as hopium. Hoping the worst never comes to pass. Hoping we won’t be part of the retrenchment. Hoping we are too good to be replaced. Hoping the storm shall pass. Hoping…
That’s no way to live life.
The irony is that in not proactively taking any risk to improve the situation, it ends up being the riskier alternative ultimately. Because you are just playing a sitting duck, and anything could happen. At any time.
Getting Over your Fear of the Unknown
Risk taking – and by this we mean positive risk taking – itself is fraught with a lot of uncertainty. But that stems from our inherent human need to keep everything within our control. From our fear of the unknown.
Venturing beyond the safety net seems scary. In truth, though, it is only by taking chances in life that you grow – grow as an individual, grow in your career, and grow into the success you’ve always envisioned for yourself.
“Take a chance! All life is a chance. The man who goes farthest is generally the one who is willing to do and dare.” ~Dale Carnegie
Risk taking or taking your chances does not mean making drastic changes overnight, although depending on the situation, that too is always an option!
It might involve, for instance, being visionary to realise the job market is evolving and taking courses to upskill so you do not get phased out in time.
It could mean attending those night classes despite your packed schedule to get that postgraduate degree that will open more opportunities for you.
It could mean making the radical decision to switch employers or quit employment altogether, and work on that business idea you’ve always wanted.
As I note in The Irrepressible Mind: Nine Steps to Overcome Adversity, this option is not without uncertainty and fear. But like the metamorphosis of a butterfly, that’s how growth happens: outside of your comfort zone.
You get your true power back when you embrace fear and uncertainty.
None of us knows what is around the corner. But having a good plan in place makes the risk taking worth the while. It is the best way we can avoid disappointment, pain and discomfort in life.
Sitting still doesn’t mean you will avoid those things.
So, isn’t it better to enjoy the rollercoaster of life while walking towards your goals and destiny, rather than avoiding it?