Effects of chronic job insecurity

Our analysis showed that workers who experienced job insecurity over several consecutive years became less emotionally stable, less agreeable and less conscientious.

1. Reduced emotional stability

Understandably, chronic job insecurity can cause us to become anxious, tense, irritable and depressed.

Job insecurity itself is already worrying, and when this goes on for a long time, it can make us feel we are trapped in that situation, unable to escape.

As a result, we are likely to become more depressed and neurotic over time with obvious impacts on our personal and family relationships, as well as our professional relationships.

2. Reduced agreeableness

Agreeable people are big on sympathy, cooperation and helping others. They’re the ones really good at building harmonious social relationships.

But when a potential threat hangs over us for an extended period of time, chronic job insecurity can shift our focus to be more on ourselves instead of on others.

This can really affect our standing as a positive and likeable team member at work, or the home.

3. Reduced conscientiousness

Research shows that when we’re constantly worried about the continuity of our jobs we are likely to become less motivated to put in effort, set goals and achieve goals in a reliable way.

This is bad news for those of us trying to keep motivated through tough times. It’s also bad news for who we work for. Maintaining productivity and motivation will be a massive challenge for many managers.

What this means for personality growth

The three personality traits affected most severely by chronic job insecurity are those most associated with healthy personality growth.

As we age and mature, we generally become more emotionally stable, more agreeable and more conscientious. Our research shows chronic job insecurity can stunt this emotional growth, interrupting the healthy mellowing of our personalities.

How to save your ‘self’

None of this is very cheery. But the good news is that, apart from worrying about it, there are things you can actually do.

The first step is to “know thyself” and be aware of the pitfalls, then to cultivate a growth mindset by accepting change and being open to new opportunities.

Human beings have a natural tendency to perceive uncertainty in negative terms, which helps explain why we are prone to falling into a vicious cycle induced by unemployment and job insecurity. But such negative thinking can be mitigated through conscious awareness and deliberate practice.

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