How fear of losing your job makes you a less effective leader

Fear of losing your job
The market isn’t great for bunnies at the moment.

Fear makes us do things that we normally wouldn’t do.

Being fearful makes leaders compromise when they normally wouldn’t.

Feeling scared makes leaders move into self-preservation mode when they normally look out for their team.

When a leader is scared of losing their job, this can manifest itself in situations that bring down the entire workplace and hamper the functioning of their team.

In a depressed market, people become fearful because they see fewer options. They feel as if they can’t leave their current workplace because they won’t be able to find a position elsewhere.

Unfortunately, in the boom times, people become complacent as they feel as if they have all the options in the world. They could leave their job tomorrow and have a new job the next week. Those are the easy times, the times when it’s easy to be a leader, because you hold all the cards.

Fear of losing your job, makes you look UP more than you look DOWN

I’ve noticed that when leaders fear losing their job, they focus more on managing the expectations and wishes of their boss than they do on their own team.

Soon they fail to notice what’s going on in their team, as they try to make sure their boss thinks they are doing a good job. They make sure they always have work to do and their team becomes an afterthought.

Unfortunately this is when things become out of balance. You used to focus on your team, now you focus on your boss.

Fear of losing your job makes you stop pushing back

Recently I wrote a post about how to push back on people when you need to. Leaders who fear losing their jobs stop doing this. They take on more and more work until they are swamped, along with their overworked team.

These leaders are so fearful that they believe pushing back will make them seem like they aren’t a team player and instead start to concede ground when they normally wouldn’t.

The problem is, good leaders push back when they need to. They say “no”. They fight for their work life balance and they fight to stop being overburdened so that they can continue to do a good job.

Leader who compromise on how they would normally behave in this manner begin to suffer emotional labour as they are torn between acting a certain way and believing that they should really be acting in another.

Fear of losing your job makes you focus on LOOKING valuable instead of BEING valuable

People say perception is important. They are right. But if you believe that people think you work hard because you are in the office longer than others or you look busy, you might be surprised at what others *really* think.

It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.

– Mark Twain

You know for sure that people think you’re busy right? They must know you work so hard because you put so much effort into appearing like you do.

But are you actually adding value? Doing real work that needs to be done? Or are you making yourself look busy and important so that nobody could possibly want to get rid of you.

You could be in for a surprise.

How to overcome your fear of losing your job and continue to do a good job

It’s not easy. After all, you’ve got things riding on your income. Your family, house, cars are all due to how much you earn.

But is that all you are fighting for? Money and possessions? What about your integrity and the feeling that you’re doing a good job?

Here’s how to take steps to ensure you’re moving forward and creating your own insurance against downturns and the fear of losing your job.

Work hard outside of your day job to make you more employable

Put in the effort to develop yourself outside of your day job to make you more employable. Try to find some freelance work to supplement your income, network with people to keep your connections strong and to build new ones.

Not only will this make you more valuable to your current employer, it gives you the feeling of having options outside of your day job. No more do you feel like that day job is the only thing you have.

These are the things that are easy NOT to do in the good times. Why bother? Things are going great, you don’t need to focus on this stuff. Wrong. In the good times is when you should be focusing on these things so that in the hard times, you are set up for success.

Combat the fear of losing your job by keeping up your skills and qualifications

Similar to networking, this is one of the first things to go when you are comfortable in the good times. You stop learning and developing your skills because you forget what it’s like to need them.

If your employer won’t help you develop your skills, you should invest in this yourself. Most qualifications will be tax deductible to obtain if they are relevant to your work, so you often don’t need to absorb the full price (check with an accountant though!)

However, many new skills can be learnt using platforms like lynda.com or udemy which have online training courses for reasonable prices. Sure, you might not get a fancy certificate, but you are learning, nonetheless.

Combat the fear of losing your job by doing a good job, really.

I mean really do a good job. Work hard and actually provide value. Be careful not to appear as if you are trying to be seen as doing a good job. People will notice if you’re faking it.

Stop being a “yes” person, because often “no” is where the magic happens.

Be reasonable and build credibility by saying positive and negative things about situations in the workplace. Unbridled positivity is nice, but not very useful when you need to improve.

Look after your team. Defend them from attackers. Push back on people who try to force work onto you when it isn’t justified. Hold onto your ethics and uphold them wherever you can.


If you are holding onto a position where you can’t be yourself, you need to look busy, and you feel like you can’t push back on anything, what are you doing there?

Why are you fighting so hard for a job where you are clinging for dear life, because it sure as hell can’t be enjoyable.

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