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HR Handled Right

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Worker fears can range from computer monitoring to losing their vacation time. But the big daddy of them all is being laid off. What’s the key to alleviating this, and other, workplace anxieties? Communication.

Getting The Boot
In a recent CareerBuilder poll, 68 percent of the 5,804 respondents reported feeling moderately to completely fearful of being laid off. In today’s economic downturn, this isn’t an unfounded concern. Corporate downsizing, closures, and slowdowns — specifically in the high-tech sector as well as retail and manufacturing segments — have reached an unwelcome high.

Many companies are working hard to thwart layoff anxieties by being as forthright with their workforce as possible. High profile CEOs such as Hewlett-Packard’s Carly Fiorina and Compaq’s Michael Capellas have made efforts reassuring employees of their commitment to continually building their companies. While candid communication doesn’t negate the possibility of layoffs, it does signal a willingness to communicate and inform employees as to the status of the company and addresses the changes within the marketplace.

Workplace violence is the second leading cause of fatal occupational injury in the United States.

Coincidentally, open communication is also the best approach that an employee can take. By being frank with supervisors, workers can alleviate anxieties and sometimes dispel baseless rumors. This professional approach to a difficult situation ideally allows employees to open the flow of dialogue between workers and management (read: the people who really know what’s going on). Mind your insecurity. You’re less likely to get good feedback from your supervisor if your emotions are getting the better of you. Lastly, by understanding that it could happen and preparing yourself for the emotional and financial pitfalls of a layoff, you may actually halt any internal fears or anxieties that you’re experiencing.

There are a whole host of other concerns plaguing America’s workforce. Some exist in the best and the worst of economic times; others are especially visible during economic downturns.

Many companies are moving divisions or entire workforces to other regions of the United States and around the world due to economic incentives. According to Richard Dacri, founder of HR consulting firm Dacri & Associates, with relocation comes employee fears ranging from moving anxieties to the stressful aspects of a “spouse having to leave a job [and] children having to leave school.” If you’re an employee with a great track record, companies will usually try and place you in another department if relocation isn’t an option for you. Read: if you scratch the company’s back, they’ll scratch yours. Otherwise, dust off the interview suit.

Many workers fear their safety while they’re on the job. According to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), workplace violence is the second leading cause of “fatal occupational injury in the United States.” The threat is very real for all workers — no one is immune. If stress has gotten to you, or you suspect a co-worker (or a disgruntled ex-employee) is on the edge, speak with human resources or your department supervisor. Awareness and action are often the best protection against a potentially violent situation.

Personal Sacrifice
A common fear: We put in all these hours and sacrifice time with family and friends, for what? Psychologist and CEO of WorkRelationships Dr. Joni Johnston says “The number one fear I observe among employees is that they will have to sacrifice their personal lives (and be chronically overworked) in order to be successful. That they will somehow not be a part of this [company’s] success.”

Feeling overworked and underappreciated is a common concern in today’s workforce. Employees are working 50 to 80 hours a week, while only the top percent of management makes the really big bucks. If your hard work isn’t paying off the way you would like, consider leaving. Is it really worth it to log all those hours without great results? Consider other career options where you’ll see the fruits of your labor.

Other worker concerns are computer monitoring, becoming obsolete, and racial and gender discrimination. While the concerns felt by workers appear to be varied, their remedy is universal: communication. And, if your fears aren’t quelled by the words of company management, take matters into your own hands. Keep your resume fresh and your networking skills polished. In the event your fears are realized, you’ll be ready for action.

Rebecca Firth is a freelance writer and editor, based in California.

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