Canadian Underwriter

Layoff anxiety: Are your P&C professionals affected?

September 6, 2022   by Jason Contant

Unhappy businessman in his office

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With predictions that Canada might be headed for a ‘moderate’ but short-lived recession, Canadian P&C insurance professionals will understandably be concerned about their own job prospects.

Living in fear of a layoff can be crippling. Proactively confronting this layoff anxiety is the best way to keep fears from getting the better of you, executive coach and author Melody Wilding wrote in a Harvard Business Review blog Monday. To manage layoff anxiety, Wilding recommends the following five steps:

  • Separate fact from fiction
  • Take constructive action
  • Deploy defensive pessimism
  • Rally your resilience
  • Invest in self-complexity.

South of the border, The Great Resignation has given way to The Great Apprehension, with more than half of U.S. companies actively reducing headcounts or planning to in the coming months, Wilding wrote in How to Deal with Layoff Anxiety. More than 39,000 workers were let go in the U.S. tech sector alone as of August, including employees at industry titans such as Shopify and Netflix.

“As an executive coach, I have an inside view into the trepidation rippling through the workforce and how it’s affecting performance and mental health,” Wilding wrote in the blog.

Part of the problem is that layoff anxiety can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, Wilding said. “If you feel helpless in the face of upheaval at your company, you may retreat and pull back on your efforts, which renders you a more likely candidate for cuts.

Pushing a boulder uphill

“I’ve also seen people’s insecurities drive them to work harder and evermore frantically. This can inadvertently signal that they lack prioritization and self-leadership—two skills employers seek in workers they keep.”

The first step in fighting layoff anxiety is to separate fact from fiction. Sometimes people’s inner dialogue doesn’t match reality, Wilding said. Examine what evidence you have that points to the likelihood of a layoff and whether or not you’d be impacted. Consider:

  • Has your manager asked you to implement cost-saving measures?
  • Has the company instituted a hiring freeze?
  • Are sales consistently down?
  • Is your workload lighter than usual?
  • Are you being pushed out of meetings you previously participated in?

“If the answer to most of the above questions is ‘no’ then you probably have less cause for concern.”

If do you sense signs of a layoff, get more information and assess your situation, Wilding recommends. For example, are your projects high-value? Is your work revenue-generating? Are you assigned to initiatives senior leadership considers important? If not, speak to your boss about modifying your workload to ensure your time is well-spent.

Given insurance is a relationship business, now is the time to begin re-engaging your network.

“Reconnect with old colleagues and managers. Join an industry group or trade association,” Wilding wrote. “You’ll feel calmer about possible change if you have supportive people in your corner. Set aside a few hours to make sure your resume, portfolio, and LinkedIn profile are up-to-date. Even if layoffs don’t come, you’ll feel comforted knowing that you could make a move at any time.”

Deploying ‘defensive pessimism’ is another strategy. What steps would you take if you were actually laid off? Walk through your plan in detail and anticipate how you’d deal with obstacles such as finances and finding a new job. “Creating contingency plans creates a perception of control amid an otherwise uncertain situation.”

Reminding yourself of how you’ve confronted and risen above adversity in the past is a well-proven resilience strategy. Think about a time when you faced disappointment, hurt, or hardship. What strengths allowed you to pull through? What doors opened after?

The final strategy is to invest in self-complexity. Research has found that people who reduced themselves down to one attribute—their job—felt dehumanized, like nothing more than a machine or a tool, and had higher levels of disengagement, depression and burnout.

By contrast, self-complexity reflects the number and diversity of attributes that make up the meaningful aspects of who you are. “The higher your self complexity, the more resilient you are.”

That’s why it’s important to think about diversifying your sense of self, just as you’d diversify your finances. That way when things at work aren’t going well, you don’t lose your entire sense of self. You might choose to devote time to hobbies, spirituality or health.

“Living in fear of a layoff can be crippling. By managing your mind and taking proactive steps, you can ease your concerns and set yourself up to respond to whatever the future throws at you.”


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