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Insecurity at Work - 26 July 2016

Usually when we think of job insecurity, we think of it as the risk that employees might lose their employment due to workplace uncertainty.  But fresh research led by the University of Oxford has identified a new form of insecurity that appears to be up to 500% more prevalent.

Known as job status insecurity, it reflects the fear among employees that they could potentially lose aspects of their job they especially value.  The findings pinpoint four areas in which employees are particularly vulnerable:

  • Less say:  That their influence within the organisation will diminish.
  • Less skill:  That their talents will no longer be utilised as often. 
  • Less pay:  That their income will be negatively affected.
  • Less interesting work:  That their job will become dull and unchallenging.
In the analysis of thousands of employees, there were no differences in age or contract status.  In other words, it didn’t matter whether they were Gen Ys or Baby Boomers or whether they were permanent or casual workers.  The key demographic affected differently was the one associated with hierarchy.  Lower-level employees were substantially more likely to worry about imminent losses in the make-up of their work.

Here’s what that means.  If you’re reading this newsletter, there’s a decent chance you’re not affected by job status insecurity and probably never will be.  Because of the seniority of your role, you’re quite fortunate when it comes to having a say, utilising your skills, being paid well, and enjoying interesting work.  That may not be the case for your employees, which is why it’s worth heeding the lesson from the final finding to emerge from this research.

That final finding is this: employee participation.  More specifically, organisations in which employees were encouraged to be actively involved were less likely to be afflicted by job status insecurity.  It’s worthwhile, then, to discuss workplace changes before they occur, to take your employees’ needs into account during implementation, to consult them for their opinion, to include them in decision-making, to give them some freedom to mould their jobs, and to identify ways of incorporating their talents into their work.

Even though you may have long forgotten what it’s like to be without those job characteristics.


To download complimentary e-books on employee engagement, retention, and recruitment (valued at over $100), please click here.

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