The best employees are always the ones who think their jobs are in jeopardy. This is a true story I recently heard from a friend of mine. He manages a team made up mostly of contractors (i.e., “non-employees”). Contractors have contracts to work for specific lengths of time. Shortly before the contract expires, it is renewed or, in the case of some undesirable employees, the employees are informed that their services will no longer be required. My friend’s best contractor came to him the other day, concerned that his contract had not been renewed yet. He was afraid he was being let go and was considering accepting a job he’d been offered at another company. His boss explained that his contract could not be renewed until the set date when it was up for renewal — but that he was a valued worker and had no reason to fear for his job safety. Understandably, the contractor was unwilling to take this assurance, however frank and honest, as a formal guarantee. Instead of waiting patiently or accepting the new job offer, he pestered his boss on a regular basis about his contract and occasionally made veiled threats about lawsuits that contractors have brought against companies when they were essentially working as full-time employees without benefits. Because company policy prevented his boss from renewing his contract early, the contractor achieved nothing other than frustrating him.
Bosses don’t want to leave their employees in the dark, worried about whether or not they’ll have a job in six months, but in many situations, that’s company policy. If your boss assures you that your job isn’t in jeopardy, you have two choices — believe him or don’t. There is no such thing as job security in modern America, so if you’re worried you’re going to be laid off, the best thing you can do is what you should be doing anyway — always be job hunting. Keep in touch with friends and former colleagues, particularly at other companies in your field, and always have an eye out for the next step in your career path. And if you’re worried that you’re going to be fired for gross incompetence, rest assured you’re probably one of the best workers on your team. The truly useless people are rarely self-aware enough to know when they are on the chopping block.