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Overcoming the ?Social Buffaloes? in the Changing Workplace

What would make 70 percent of workers feel insecure while 73 percent are stressed out as reported by Princeton Survey Research Associates? The economy and events of September 11 have made a bad situation worse for both small and large businesses.

This is a confounding situation. Bad for employers because employees optimal performance requires secure environment and stress related illnesses may lead to increased absenteeism. Employees, on the other hand, need great performance to be marketable.

For example, in the last 2 years Idaho workers have seen their jobs threatened or made obsolete by technological advancement, declining potato and timber prices, deregulation of the electric industry, merging of banks and business sellouts. The average Idaho worker cannot accurately anticipate these changes before they occur. Such unexpected changes could be compared to the appearance of water buffaloes in an African village. They invaded villages without warning, devastating social structures, uprooting the harmonious livelihood of villagers and left them feeling insecure and stressed out.

What can be done to eliminate these ?social Buffaloes? in the workplace? What can each worker do, not only to survive but thrive in the turbulence of unexpected changes? Organizations, private or public, won?t revert to the old womb-to-tomb job security. Job availability and longevity will continue to be dictated by factors beyond the workers control. The resume that got you a job today probably won?t keep you in it for the rest of your life. In today?s job market, you will soon compete for the same job opening in your home town with folks who live in foreign soils.

I believe these changes present opportunities for tapping ones often hidden potential and creativity. The following five suggestions will help workers feel secure, less stressed out and able to thrive these trying times and beyond.

1. Become multi-functional. What did you do in the past that you can revert to if your position is no available? What are the skills, knowledge and abilities that you are using now and you can transfer to another employer if need be? What skills, knowledge and abilities are you planning to have in the next six months, one, two and five years from now that will keep you abreast with your area of specialization? Keep these things in focus. Dig your water well long before you are thirsty.

2. Assume nothing. Your job, employer and work location can change. Flexibility must become a necessary survival tool. Let go of perceptions, habits and projects that curtail your chances of facing the future with enthusiasm.

3. Use network and teamwork skills. Master the fabrics for team-building and success. These include commitment, interpersonal communication skills, unselfish contributions, a willingness to learn from diverse cultural and professional backgrounds, coordination, conflict and change management. Let others, in addition to your boss and employer know what you are good at. Can others write a recommendation letter for your next job? Volunteer and community services are great places to spread yourself around and make your talents and interests known.

4. Stay in school. Helen Hayes said, ?When books are opened, we discover our wings.? Ear phones and automobile?s cassette players are mobile colleges at your fingertips. Experts say one has to read a book/week to be up to date in his/her specialty. Keep yourself marketable by continuously improving your skills, knowledge and abilities. In the jungle, whether you are a lion or gazelle, when the sun is up, you better be running for survival.

5. Bear in mind, a job alone cannot provide long-term security. There must be a balancing and blending of ones relationships (with God, family, and community), recreation, personal and professional growth.

With these suggestions in practice, workers will have the necessary tools to combat ?social buffaloes? that threaten their job security and peace of mind.

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