Maybe there have been a bunch of recent layoffs within your company. Perhaps departments keep getting restructured. Or, maybe your boss keeps not-so-subtly suggesting that you pick up a few skills that will make you “more marketable.”

Whatever the specific situation is, your work environment seems incredibly unstable, and you feel like your entire career is up in the air. Anybody who has been in that situation before will tell you that it’s difficult to stay focused and productive when you think you’re one small step away from unemployment.

Yes, there’s no doubt that coping in an unsteady atmosphere is a challenge. But, unfortunately, sometimes it’s necessary. So, here are a few tips for both surviving and thriving when things seem really shaky.


1. Don’t Engage in Gossip

We’re all human. So, it’s only natural that we want to talk about the things that are bothering us—and feeling like you’re about to get the boot is definitely one of those things.

Needless to say, there’s bound to be endless amounts of chatter about all of the changes your company is going through. However, it’s in your best interest to steer clear of all of the office gossip. In the end, it only broadcasts inaccurate information and breeds even more anxiety and uncertainty.

Plus, staying away from all of those hushed whispers not only preserves your sanity, but it also helps you to stay focused on your work—which keeps your job that much further away from the chopping block.


2. Avoid Obsessing

We all know that overanalyzing is another totally normal tendency when you’re feeling anxious about something. But, try your best to avoid churning over every small remark or interaction.

I totally get it. All of those closed-door meetings and subtle hints from your superior are enough to have you worked into a tizzy. But, what does reading into every minute detail accomplish—other than tie your stomach into knots?

You’re better off focusing on what you know now. Even if you’re really out of the loop, at the very least you know that you still have a job to do. So, assert control over the aspects of your position that are still within your grasp and channel your energy into doing your best work. Forget the rest for now.


3. Don’t Be Afraid to Be Direct

An unstable work environment can definitely have you walking on eggshells. You’re likely hesitant to rock the boat and would rather just fly below the radar, get your work done, and stay out of the way.

But, if your office atmosphere has become so shaky and uncertain that you can’t even be productive, it might be time to have an honest conversation with your superior about the current happenings within your company.

Be prepared that he or she might not have any information to share—your manager might be just as in the dark as you are. But, you can take at least a little bit of comfort in knowing that you showed some initiative and passion for the security of your position. If nothing else, your boss will know that you care enough about your job to seek out some answers.


4. Ask the Right Questions

Yes, there’s a lot to be said for being direct with your supervisor. But, that doesn’t mean you should storm into your boss’ office with a generic demand to know what exactly is going on.

If you do decide to approach your manager, it’s important that you take the time beforehand to figure out exactly what you’d like answers to. Jot down your biggest questions, such as “Do I need to worry about the security of my job?”

As selfish as it sounds, focus on getting answers to what directly affects you. You don’t need all of the nitty-gritty details and confidential facts about the company’s objectives. Your main goal should be getting the information you need in order to figure out your next steps.


5. Form a Backup Plan

Unfortunately, you don’t have a crystal ball. So, even if you’re able to have an honest conversation with your manager, neither one of you can predict exactly what’s going to happen. That’s why it’s smart to be proactive and plan for the worst.

Even if you aren’t quite ready to start sending out job applications, you should still ensure that you have your ducks in the row should anything disastrous happen with your current position. Knock the dust off your resume. Make sure that your references are in order. Take advantage of any networking opportunity that you can. Doing these things will only put you in a better position if and when you do need to look for a new job.

If you think it would help you, you can even consider talking with a career coach about what you’re currently going through. These experienced experts have helped plenty of people through your exact circumstances, so they can be a great resource in helping you figure out your next steps.

Regardless of what exactly you decide to do, having a fallback plan will help to remove at least a little uncertainty from your current situation.



There’s no denying that functioning in a shaky work environment can take a toll on you. After all, staying focused on your work when your entire professional world seems to be crumbling around you can feel downright impossible. Unfortunately, there’s no magic wand to wash away all of your insecurity and anxiety. But, these tips are sure to help you cope with an unstable office—at least until you can get out.


Photo of stressed woman courtesy of Shutterstock.