Why Should I Care?

Four ways to avoid apathy in an insecure work environment

With cutbacks causing employees to do more with less, morale is down in many companies and it’s easy for apathy or indifference to set in. Apathy, however, can be a career killer, particularly in a tight job market, since employees who don’t care are less likely to give their all, making them ripe for receiving a pink slip.

“An uninterested employee is less valuable to the company and faces a real danger of being swept up in a wave of layoffs,” says Rhoda Smackum, a career coach with Career by Design in Laurel, Maryland. Smackum adds that if you’re unmotivated, “you’re less likely to showcase your skills and the value that you bring.”

Passion for the job at a low? Follow these tips to revive your interest and jump-start your career:

Use stress as a motivator. Not all stress is bad. Sometimes stress can motivate you to take a needed course of action. If you’re concerned that your job may be in jeopardy, use that uncertainty to propel yourself to work longer or harder, to do whatever it takes to stand out from the crowd. While it might be difficult to work harder indefinitely, the tightening economy can provide an incentive to buckle down for the short term.

Remember gratitude. “Right now, you should be grateful you’re still working and have a salary coming in,” says Loretta Love Huff, president of Emerald Harvest Consulting, a professional development firm in Phoenix. No matter how uncertain your work environment may have recently become, things could be worse—so acknowledge the positives. This simple shift in perspective can be what you need to get out of a slump.

Take on a new role. At a time when downsizing companies are determining who to keep and who to let go, now’s not the time to stay under the radar. Ask your manager what additional tasks you can take on to help the company weather the storm. Not only will you learn some new skills, you’ll increase your value in the company. Smackum adds, “Companies are looking for people willing to remain loyal and do more.”

Adjust your social network. If you find yourself surrounded by those who are constantly complaining about work or the economy, do what you can to separate yourself. “Ignore those who choose to be negative,” says Love Huff. Now is an excellent time to join professional networking groups to find others who are taking positive steps to move forward despite difficult times.

This article originally appeared in the March 2009 issue of Black Enterprise magazine.

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