how can I stop panicking every day that I might get fired?

A reader writes:

I was fired by my first job out of college and only salaried job. I knew I wasn’t doing my best work, was a general 20something mess, and was becoming very disillusioned and unhappy at the company. I don’t know how much was legitimately shady stuff they did or how much was early-20s idealism run amok. We received no feedback of any kind — no performance reviews, formal or otherwise — and had little supervision. The feedback we did get was usually comments about our metrics or, in one case, a comment that we were interchangeable.

So since I never received any feedback, I had to extrapolate it myself. At any point I could list very plausible reasons to fire me, and I was constantly terrified I’d lose my job. But it still blindsided me when it actually happened. First they posted my position online. Then my boss sent an IM intended for another manager to a friend of mine with the same name, and my friend passed it on. But they didn’t tell me in person until the day they did it, and I don’t remember them giving a specific reason. (I’m sure if they had, I would obsess over it to this day.)

Now I’m in a different job in a different field in a company that employs a lot of perma-contractors. I started in a pool of temps and after a few “callbacks,” I guess you’d say, am now a permatemp. While my initial contract had an end date, this one doesn’t have anything formal beyond “this project is in spring 2018.” But I don’t know if that’s because there isn’t an end or because it got pushed back since we’re behind (we are). And I don’t know whether it’s an end date for everyone or just a few people — after all, that’s why I’m still here.

So as a result, though I enjoy this job much more, every single day I am still terrified of being fired. We don’t have performance reviews here, either, and the feedback we get is more micro (“here’s something you can do differently on this project”) rather than macro (“here’s what we think of you and your future here”). My manager seems reasonable, but so did my boss at my last job, and we don’t interact much.

The anxiety — panic, really — is not interfering with my work but that’s only because work is slow; it’s definitely interfering with my interactions with coworkers and my manager. I keep a bottle of (prescription) anti-anxiety pills at my desk for when it gets really bad, but I’m needing them more and more, and their very presence causes a meta-anxiety that I’ll get in trouble over drug possession (they’re often abused).

So, given no feedback, how does one A) know whether they’re at risk of being fired and B) manage the fear? Is it ever acceptable to ask?

You absolutely can ask for feedback! You can ask for it on specific projects and you can ask for it more broadly. Some ways to say it:
* “Could we talk about how this project went? I’d love to get your feedback on it.”
* “I wasn’t sure the way I presented X at the meeting was the most effective way to approach it. Do you thoughts on how I could have done that better?”
* “Could we talk about how things are going overall? I’d really like to get your feedback on how I’m doing, big-picture.”
* “Could we talk about how things are going? I’m hoping to get a better sense from you of how I’m doing overall, and especially if there are things I should work on doing differently.”

And since you’re unclear on how long your work there is slated to ask, ask about that too: “I’m trying to get a better idea of how long my role here is likely to last. Is it likely to end when this project wraps up, and if so, what’s your sense of when that will most likely be?”

This is a totally normal thing to ask about! They’ll understand that of course you need to have some idea of that.

But as for terror over the possibility of being fired … It’s certainly true that there are bad managers out there who will fire people without any kind of warning. But they’re not the majority. Decent managers give you feedback and won’t let you to believe that everything is going fine and then swoop in and fire you out of the blue one day. And even with bad managers, there are usually signs that things aren’t going well — like that you’re getting a lot of criticism and your manager seems increasingly dissatisfied with your work. (Read these signs too.)

The best way to prevent yourself from being blindsided by a firing you didn’t see coming is to ask for feedback and take it seriously and ensure you understand how your manager sees your work.

But sometimes people get fired! Generally it’s warranted, although sometimes it’s not. But firings do happen. So do layoffs. And they can happen even if you do everything right.

Given that, and given your worries about it, you might feel a lot better if you have a plan in place for what you’d do if that happened. Sometimes knowing what you’d do if your fears come to pass makes them less daunting. So do the things you’d be grateful to have done if that does happen: keep an up-to-date resume, actively cultivate your network, and get some job leads in place — all of which is smart to do anyway when you’re a temp on a project that isn’t long-term.

But also, the level of panic that you’re describing is pretty debilitating and not likely to help you at work, and it has to be harming your quality of life. So if you’re not already, consider talking to a therapist about strategies for combating anxiety. You shouldn’t be terrified at work every day.

{ 95 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Aveline

    Remember that even the best of us fail.

    Even people at the top of their game fail.

    Olivier is regarded as probably the greatest actor ever, and he made some really horrible movies.

    There are some brilliant and some God%awful Lennon-McCartney songs.

    Jessie Owens and Joe DiMaggio both lost.

    Even Shakespeare had some of his writing fall flat (and that does nit include the non published stuff lost to history).

    Failure is a part of a life well lived. It’s what you do with it that matters.

    Remember your failure doesn’t mean you are a bad person, just that you are a person.

    Reply
    1. Triumphant Fox

      This is so true and encouraging, but I’d also recommend distancing yourself from your work emotionally. It’s been really, really good for my mental health to have a space where I’m not personally invested in my work product. If someone doesn’t like what I do here, I don’t consider their criticism as an attack on a core part of my identity. It’s really helped me frame it as “I could do better at this specific product or TPS report or interacting with this individual who’s sensitive about X” rather than “I am not a worthy human.”

      Looking at your work product objectively can really help you get a handle on these feelings of impending doom because you can have a go-to list of things you’re doing well at in the moment. And, if you ever are let go or decide to leave, you’ll already be in the mindset of “Here are the skills I acquired and demonstrated in my last position.”

      This is why I decided not to be an academic or an artist full time. I can’t really handle my work being so closely entwined with what I cherish/think/feel as a human. I am much happier if my livelihood isn’t pegged to the acceptance of what I want to put out into the world, but rather how I can operate and perform effectively within a set of restrictions.

      Reply
      1. selena81

        I made the conscious decision to not try to ‘make my passion into a job’ (my first college degree was mostly ideologically driven, my second degree was purely practical).
        Because it feels too much like putting all your eggs in one basket, emotionally speaking. The first study was no big succes because i lost interest in that specific subject. It made me very afraid of sitting on that high horse but being brought down by others instead of myself.

        From artists to politicians to academics: i see way too much people who have build their entire career on (what i perceive to be) a crappy often-ideologically-based idea that will soon get kicked out from under them.

        No, for me my job will just be my job and not my reason-for-living (though i’ll fake some enthusiasm around recruiters, as much as one would reasonably expect for my boring job)

        Reply
    2. designbot

      This reminds me of an interview I heard with a football coach, I want to say it was Bill Belichick, who if you don’t know has been to the Super Bowl more times than any other coach in history. He said to a younger coach who was having trouble with a loss, “I’ve lost more games than you’ve even played.” The people who win big have often also lost a lot.

      Reply
      1. selena81

        please tell me the other coach told him to zip his humble-bragging mouth: Bill doesn’t get hired for losing, he gets hired for a high winning percentage and each lost game brings that down.

        Reply
  2. Wannabe Disney Princess

    I can relate. Whenever my Boss or GrandBoss asks to talk to me, my first thought is I’m going to get fired. (So far, this has not proven to be the case.) I take three deep breaths and then grab a notepad and pen before going into their office. Having something to do with my hands has proved vitally important.

    I also keep a folder in my inbox of positive feedback I’ve received from any coworker. It’s helpful to scroll through to not only calm my fears but remind myself that I’m pretty good at my job.

    Reply
    1. Amber T

      I actually wonder if there’s a little bit of fear still on my face when I enter our CFOs office when he randomly IMs me to swing by – he made a comment the other day that “if it’s urgent, I’ll call you. If I IM you, I really do mean when you have a free minute, you don’t have to drop everything you’re doing.” But there’s something about seeing the words “come to my office” (or some variation) waiting for you on your screen that just freaks me out.

      OP, while I would definitely use those scripts, I would also listen for things like the above. Get a sense for how normal your current office is, and if your boss/upper management tell you that they’ll let you know if/when there’s a problem, trust them that they will. I think your boss will be happy to hear “hey, I want to make sure I’m doing the best job I can, but I might need some guidance on that.” It’s so easy to overlook/miss the normal office things when you’re coming from a toxic and ridiculous work place, especially when you have the illogical jerk brain freaking you out. Good luck!!

      Reply
      1. Wannabe Disney Princess

        When I had my first review, my Boss stopped at my desk and said “Can you come into GrandBoss’s office with me?”

        I have NO IDEA what my face did but it couldn’t have been good because when I walked in my GrandBoss said, “Jesus Christ, look at her face! Did you tell her this was good news?” She then spent a few minutes reassuring me that everything was fine and that if it was bad news I would know.

        Reply
          1. Alton

            It can indeed be a curse. I both have a terrier poker face and tend to be pretty expressive, and I’m always worried about looking unhappy (even when I’m not really that worried/unhappy).

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      2. Jadelyn

        I had temped for a number of years before my current job, and that comes with quite a bit of instability. In addition, the last temp job I had before my current job I was abruptly fired from over correctable issues that I hadn’t been told were a problem (and could easily have corrected, since they were more “this is how we do it here” vs “this is how I’m used to doing it” than a matter of actual mistakes or anything like that), so I was blindsided by it.

        So I was super twitchy when I started working here, and any kind of “Can you come to my office?” would have me nearly panicking, assuming I was going to be fired – despite the fact that I work in HR, this organization is pro-employee to a fault and will coach and coach and coach someone until it’s clear that there’s truly no other option than to fire them, I *know* because I have *watched it happen* multiple times that they would never just fire me out of the blue – but my brain refused to accept any of that as evidence and was sure I was going to get fired every time.

        My manager figured that out pretty quick, so she started giving me a quick “why” in addition to “come see me” – instead of just “can you come see me when you have a moment” it became “I have a question about [project], nothing bad, but can you pop by when you have a sec?” That way I could calm the brainweasels and not come in to start the conversation in a state of “oh god please don’t fire me”.

        She still does it, even though I’m much less prone to that kind of freakout, and I really appreciate that bit of consideration and kindness.

        Reply
          1. hermit crab

            My previous (fabulous) manager tended to do the “stop by when you have a sec” IM thing and one time she did it while I was literally reading an AAM post about why that is a bad idea. I think I just sent her a link to the post, haha.

            Reply
        1. Kiwi

          I picked that up from here too. Now when I ask someone to drop into my office, I tell them why. Just something like “I’ve got a quick question about the TPS report”. I don’t know if anyone was freaking out but hopefully now they don’t.

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          1. selena81

            It’s one of those situations where management has no idea that it’s even happening (employers are often honestly unaware of how intimidating they can come across, even employers that do their best to ‘put on a human face’ and ‘be approachable’)
            And employees feel weird about straight-up saying ‘i thought i was gonna get fired’ (as it might come of as ‘you may not know it yet, but i screwed up big time’)

            Reply
    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      I was definitely this way after I left Toxic Job. A friend analogized it to DV because the things I was afraid of seemed so disproportionate to anyone who had worked at a functional, non-toxic workplace. It took me literally 2 years to stop being scared whenever my boss/supervisor stopped by to talk to me, and sometimes it still happens. I agree that deep breathing can help.

      I second the therapy recommendation, particularly CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy). OP, you developed these patterns for a reason—your prior job was dysfunctional in key ways that set you up to be triggered by the interactions you’re describing. But now it will help to try to cabin those reactions and reprogram/unlearn those patterns now that you’re in a better place (emotionally and work-wise).

      I’m so sorry you’re going through this.

      Reply
      1. Sara without an H

        I second your recommendation for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. I’ve done it myself, also for anxiety-related issues, and it will usually produce results within a comparatively short time frame.

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      2. Detective Amy Santiago

        Your first paragraph is 100% how I was after I got fired from Toxic Job and it took me a good year at my previous job to get over that.

        OP, you are not alone.

        Reply
      3. ToxicJobSurvivor

        I think this is a good analogy. I left a toxic job where I was sexually harassed frequently. Since, I have noticed my reactions are sometimes disproportionate. Stupidly enough, I ended up in another toxic job and am already anxious about letting go of the bad habits and reactions I have learned here as I am moving on soon.

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      4. mugsy523

        I suffered from this fear for years. I grew up in a dysfunctional home and then had a seriously toxic workplace experience after that. It’s amazing how those experiences change you. Therapy (CBT, specifically) has helped tremendously, although it’s not an overnight process. It’s terrible to live in a state where you’re perpetually afraid of “the other shoe dropping” constantly.

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      5. hayling

        My previous boss was so passive-agressive, and I couldn’t take anything she said at face value. She was also inconsistent about the level of detail she wanted to be involved in. I found myself asking for her reassurance/confirmation for every detail, because I was afraid I’d get reprimanded in the future for not reading her mind and getting something wrong. At my current job, I realized I was totally scarred from that experience. It took me months to trust my boss at her word, and even after a year I’m still not always confident in my decisions. Ugh, toxic workplaces.

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        1. Anon for this

          At one job I had a boss who tended to forget things and hold you accountable for something you weren’t. So I was constantly touching base with him about priorities and making sure we were on the same page.

          My next job, that was not an adaptive strategy. (Who knew you could have a review that said you needed to ask questions sooner and ask fewer questions? I was so baffled by that initially, but it was two different types of questions, which makes sense.)

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        2. Mad Baggins

          I really resonated with this. At OldJob I felt like I had no idea why things were being done the way they were, so I had to ask for reassurance/confirmation for every detail and constantly touching base about priorities like hayling and Anon for this. Now I can more easily predict how people will react and what solutions they will propose, which means my constant questions and desire for reassurance comes across as needy and incompetent. I just need to retrain myself for this new environment (and since we are capable and talented humans, we can do this!!)

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        3. TardyTardis

          Oh, I worked for her! She ran through five accountants before she finally found one who could read her mind (who said, ‘I have no idea why any previous employee ever had any trouble’ and we all tried not to kill her).

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      6. Bree

        Chiming in to endorse CBT. In just a couple months, it’s made an enormous difference in my work-related anxiety and panic. My therapist used a book called “The Generalized Anxiety Disorder Workbook” by Robichaud and Dugan, which you might also check out if you don’t have access to affordable therapy right now.

        Reply
      7. Britpoptarts

        I literally have job-loss PTSD, according to my therapist. I live in a right-to-work state and haven’t had the best of luck with jobs. I was ready to blame myself, but really, what can you do when:
        1. You are laid off because the owner died in a hot tub at the YMCA.
        2. You are laid off (after 7 prior lay-offs) because business in the field was hurt badly by 9/11 and your division is going to be parcelled out to other branches.
        3. You are laid off because the owner has decided to sell the business, and the new owner wants to tear the building down to the studs and rebuild it.
        4. You are laid off because the boss’ wife wants to hire her ne’er-do-well cousin for your job.
        5. You are fired, but kindly, and are told that people slowly learn about how to deal with bosses in this particular field, who tend to be mercurial and difficult, with more experience.
        6. You are fired because the boss did not put shipping stickers (that you provided, with duplicates) on the demo items required for trade shows and therefore they did not get shipped to the next trade show location and it is somehow your fault.

        So, yeah, I blamed myself for all of these things because they happened in rapid succession, and I was feeling like no matter what I tried to do to earn a living, I would fail (these were jobs in multiple professions!) but upon reflection, what could I do to predict or change what happened? I see only two possible job losses I could have avoided: the one where I saw the company dwindle in personnel numbers steadily after 9/11 but didn’t want to look for a new job because my pay and benefits were so good where I was, and the one where I thought I could handle a really difficult and complicated area of law in my first job placement as a paralegal and, without my boss wanting to train me up to his specifications, I had to guess a lot at what was wanted and sometimes guessed wrong; I could have looked for a job where I’d get more training and deal with a more rote and less open-ended / interpretive kind of paralegal work.

        At my current job, my bosses and I like each other, and I am doing well, but I have days where nothing goes wrong but I am still gripped by panic and fear and worry that when I am called into an office, I will be scolded and fired. This mood does not improve my functionality as an employee. In fact, it pretty much messes me up for the rest of the day and I make anxiety-related minor errors or hurry too much through tasks or fumble my phrasing when trying to talk to a peer, and so on.

        Having a sympathetic ear / therapist to discuss this fear with, and to explore that I was taking the right amount of responsibility (but not ALL of it) onto my shoulders, to discuss coping techniques, and so on…it has really helped. I can’t talk to my family, who work in much more steady / rote businesses with far more personal autonomy than I have, or in fields that are almost 100% creative and thus they are valued as unique individuals who can’t easily be replaced. My mother is a narcissist who enjoys emotionally abusing me, and she would not be an ally. Other friends either do not work due to retiring, mental or physical disability, or they, too, work in more rote-but-autonomous or -highly-educated-and-irreplaceably-creative jobs, and don’t understand how you canb be let go without cause in right-to-work states, so I mut have done SOMEthing. Etc. So, yes, a hearty seconding: talk to a therapy professional who is on your side.

        Reply
  3. SometimesALurker

    It sounds like this is only a tiny piece of what’s going for you, OP, but I was not-quite-fired (let go for “fit” reasons at the end of my probationary period) from my first “professional” job, in my early 20s, it totally blindsided me, and for a long time I was haunted by the worry that I was the problem, and that I’d be fired again someday and it would make me unemployable. I did make some mistakes at that job that probably contributed to the problem, and they were also really irresponsible about the way they “trained” and didn’t give feedback. I’ve been in both healthy and somewhat unhealthy work environments since then, and it has eventually sunk in that there isn’t something inherently “firable” about me. I know that if it were easy for you to get over your anxiety, you would have done so already, and a word of reassurance from a stranger won’t fix things, but I wanted to give you an anecdote from the other side of this mountain you’re on.

    Reply
  4. Murphy

    I’ve been fired sort of out of the blue (I knew there were some issues, but I didn’t think we were there yet) without being given a reason, and it sucks. I’m sorry it happened to you. I second everything Alison said, including the therapist. Medication is great, but getting some help reframing your thoughts can also help you develop some strategies to deal with it. I had some work related anxiety both before and after the firing, and I found it helpful. Good luck!

    Reply
    1. AnotherLibrarian

      Yes, I would agree with the suggestion of seeing a therapist, if you are not all ready. Constant fear you maybe fired that is interfering with your day to day life is a good reason to go talk to someone who may have helpful coping strategies beyond your medication. Medication is amazing, but mental health often needs a two pronged approach.

      Reply
    2. Lil Fidget

      I may be reading this wrong, but it sounds like this first firing wasn’t totally out of the blue for OP – they had the sense they weren’t doing well and even suspected they might be fired. “I knew I wasn’t doing my best work.” If you now feel that you are doing good work, OP, maybe you can keep reminding yourself that the situation is different.

      Reply
  5. Justin

    Second the therapy rec. I mentioned yesterday being on a PIP once and for 4 years at the next job, I just assumed any bad news meant I would lose my job.

    I can’t speakf or your workplace, but over time, I hope I get to where you can trust your ability. Do ask for feedback, and understand that unless it’s full of harsh criticism, you are thus unlikely to be summarily dismissed.

    Reply
  6. EA

    First off you will not get in trouble for having a drug prescribed to you on your desk.

    Second, apart from what AAM said, I find savings helpful to prevent anxiety. I still worry I will be fired, but I also know I can live for x number of moths if it happens.

    Reply
    1. Jady

      Savings are hugely important. I understand not everyone can afford it, but for anyone who can – be prepared for these scenarios!! Even the best of workplaces can change suddenly. I’ve seen it happen.

      Savings does two huge things:

      A) It gives you comfort and means you aren’t dependent on your current position. Surprisingly, this actually makes a lot of things about a bad job tolerable (in my experience). Knowing that you aren’t dependent is very freeing.

      B) It means you have choices. If you do lose your job, you’re still okay. That means while you’re looking for work, you have more confidence in negotiating, you could turn down poor job offers. Having to take the first thing that comes along can sometimes hurt you.

      DISCLAIMER: Obviously these things depend on your situation, your savings, your bills, your work industry and job availability, etc.

      After a layoff, my husband at one point had 3 companies competing against each other for him. He got an insanely good offer and has worked there a few years now. That’s a nerve-wracking situation, because heck – all 3 could decide to pull their offer. But we were in a good financial position that we could take that risk, and it paid off for us.

      Reply
    2. Specialk9

      Oh gosh yes. Before I crawled out of an abusive relationship (significantly in debt), I focused hard on paying down debt and gaining financial freedom. I read lots of personal finance blogs, and it helped me reset my world. I highly recommend personal finance blogs! (I love Budgets Are Sexy, and find good things still in blogs that have gone corporate like Get Rich Slowly, and The Simple Dollar. Bogleheads has a forum where knowledgeable people will advise on your particular situation, though you need to read The Bogleheads Guide to Investing first.)

      Reply
  7. AvonLady Barksdale

    Besides Alison’s excellent advice, one thing that stuck out to me was that “work is slow”. This is THE WORST for those of us who are prone to anxiety and over-thinking. When productivity is low because it’s a slow time, the feelings of, “What is my worth here” can be debilitating. Focusing that energy on getting feedback, like Alison suggested, might help a lot. There are other things you can do, like finding something to occupy the downtime, and setting aside blocks of time in your schedule to focus on something specific. When this happens to me–and it happened a lot when I started my current job– I have to work extra hard, with a therapist’s help, to concentrate on taking in information and not making assumptions or catastrophizing, as I am prone to do. Are people talking to me? Does my boss bring me into projects and meetings? Do I complete tasks well and thoroughly? Often it’s simply a matter of being in a slow period, and that is ok. Good luck, OP!

    Reply
    1. Argh!

      I have asked for additional duties or ideas for projects when things are slow. My boss hasn’t been forthcoming, but at least she knows I *want* to do more, and any lack of productivity isn’t my fault. Your boss is in charge of your workload, so asking for more work is entirely fitting.

      Reply
      1. Dancing Pangolins

        I recommend doing professional development activities in your down time. Look at what your current company needs overall or your own skills that you can take to the next level and look for courses or learning opportunities where ever you can: Lynda.com, EdX, HBS articles and books, audio books, you tube — you name it. Also look for ways to improve process efficiency for the company and put together some recommendations — you say the project was delayed. Side note: I’ve never had a job where I was bored/had down time, and would “kill” for time to learn new stuff or just how to get better at various things.

        However, the best long term strategy beyond therapy is too look for full time, permanent jobs — there are some where it’s hard to actually fire someone (higher education is one of them).

        And talk to your manager about your position and expected duration!

        Hope this helps!

        Reply
        1. Beer Thirty

          I agree about too much down time being tough to deal with. I worry that the day will come when someone will realize how little I have to do and my job will be eliminated (though I’ve been doing this for 16 years and no one’s fired me yet). With this outrageous amount of downtime, I feel that I have too much time to think of all the negative things that could happen. I also get upset with myself for spending so many years in such an unsatisfying job and for not being able to find something more suitable. But then I think I’d be a damn fool to quit a job that pays me $500 per hour of actual work. I was bored one day (hell, who am I kidding…I’m bored every day) and did the math based on my average weekly workload. If I left the office when my work was done each day, I’d be home before some of my colleagues arrive for work.

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          1. I See Real People

            This is my career for the last two years as well. It’s a weird situation to be in work-wise!

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  8. BRR

    First, I strongly second all of Alison’s advice to ask for feedback and you can definitely check about how long they plan to have your role there (while saying how you like being there of course).

    I have a similar history where I was fired from my first job with no notice. I’ve been in my current job for a couple years and still worry about being fired. Something that helps is to identify and remember the signs my employer is planning on me being there long term. These have included paying for a conference several months away, approving my request for a new chair, and the biggest one… talking about my future at the organization.

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  9. Argh!

    If you generally have a “no news is bad news” mindset, then you may benefit from therapy. Fear of things that may or may not happen takes you out of the present, which is where your job lives.

    You could also have a type of work-related PTSD. I was laid off from a job I loved and did well, and the coworker who knew the least about my work took over supervising my area & my staff (He actually had so little interest in my OldJob duties that he quit). Other aspects of working there were really horrible, but I loved the work itself. It literally took years for me to stop having dreams & nightmares about OldJob. Whenever something went wrong in NewJob, I would visit OldJob in my dreams. I’m also a little touchy about tiny events in NewJob that are of the same ilk as those that wore me down in OldJob (which were generally either repeated or were huge deals). I’ve had therapy off and on over the years, and about 6 months of therapy before & after the layoff that really helped me.

    My layoff was due to reorganization & downsizing of management. Any whiff of reorganization in NewJob makes me anxious, but I try to stay in the present (and keep my resume up to date and enough money for a mover in my savings account).

    Reply
  10. Amber T

    Also, if your contract ends and is not renewed, please don’t let jerk brain tell you that’s the same as being fired. Try not to let yourself feel that way. If a contract isn’t renewed, it might feel really personal, but it isn’t. Your work place can still value you as a worker and wish to continue working with you without being able to renew your contract – it does not say anything to your abilities!

    Reply
    1. Seriously?

      Yes! Temp positions end. That is definitely not the same as being fired and generally no reflection on the temp.

      Reply
    2. TemporarilyAnon

      Yup, my husband’s company is going through this with some contractors right now. Because of changes on the placement agency’s side, they cannot renew the contracts and they cannot hire the contractors outright. They feel terrible, because the contractors are great and they would not have hesitated to renew the contracts otherwise. They are also scouring their own networks for potential opportunities for the contractors (since the real salt in the wound is that the agency is phasing out that specialty, so it won’t find other placements for the contractors but is still holding my husband’s company to the no-direct-hire clause).

      Reply
      1. Seriously?

        That’s crazy! So they won’t provide temps to fill that position but won’t let the company hire the contractors either!?

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    3. MissDissplaced

      Yeah. Unfortunately, this is life in Permatemp World. But a contract end is not like being fired, it’s a layoff. If they already told you the contract would end in Spring 2018, you should probably mentally prepare yourself. But again, it’s not a reflection on your work.

      Reply
  11. Viki

    I was once fired out of what I thought was no where, but like you I knew about it the day before and it gave me the entire night and the morning until they took me aside to obsess over it. It took working a full time job that was much more healthier though less pay for a year or two for me to get over that fear and to remind myself that I wasn’t bad or useless and that meeting with my manger etc was not always going to mean I was getting fired.

    Due to your permacontract position, I really advise going and asking for clarification re: your stay at the company. Spring 2018 is vague and you need to get your ducks in a row. Asking makes perfect sense.

    Reply
    1. Argh!

      The workplace that laid me off never gave anybody advance notice in case we made mischief on the way out. We got called to an office in the C-Suite area, notified of the layoff, and then escorted to our desks to gather our things and then get escorted out the door!

      Reply
        1. Solidus Pilcrow

          Reminds me of something that happened to an acquaintance. Management had decided to fire an employee at the end of his shift. Apparently Facilities jumped the gun and ended his building access early. The soon-to-be-fired employee left the building at lunch and comes back saying, “Hey, my badge doesn’t work.”

          Reply
          1. That Would Be a Good Band Name

            I’m cringing at how many times I’ve joked about being fired when my badge didn’t work on the first swipe.

            Reply
  12. Courageous cat

    As a manager, I deeply believe that unless you do something terribly wrong (stealing, no call no show for 3 days, etc) then you should never be surprised when you get fired. Firing is a reasonable conclusion to an ongoing dialogue about someone’s pattern of bad behavior or work. Everyone should be given the opportunity to address their faults and improve upon them before jumping to firing – not to mention, I always have to recognize that bad work can sometimes be the fault of my own, through not enough thorough training.

    My point being that I think/hope most managers feel this way, and you’re not likely to get fired completely out of the blue again. A good manager should give you feedback when you do something wrong and give you the opportunity to prove yourself.

    Reply
    1. Seriously?

      True. I am a fan of PIPs that clearly define the problem, the benchmarks that need to be met, the time frame and the consequences if that benchmark is not met. I think part of the problem is that managers sometimes convey that there is an issue but don’t convey the severity of the issue.

      Reply
      1. Courageous cat

        Agreed, PIPs are a very useful tool that lay it out: fix A, B, and C or you’re fired. There is no real use in providing expectations for employees but not fully detailing A: what they are, and B: what will happen if they can’t meet them.

        Reply
    2. Formerly Arlington

      Totally agree…for a full time employee. I think performance plans are a godsend that puts everyone on the same page. The few times I’ve let someone go, they knew it was a likely outcome months in advance because they had not met certain criteria that were clear and objective.

      But for a contractor, a budget cut could happen at any time. That’s not the same as being “fired,” but I imagine being held in suspense has to be traumatic to someone who actually was fired out of the blue.

      Reply
  13. fposte

    Sorry, OP, that’s no fun. I did want to expand a little on Alison’s point about feedback, though. Sometimes anxiety makes you ask too frequently or too broadly–reasonable questions become less reasonable if asked over and over again, and some questions are really just a way to say “Tell me I’m okay.” It’s the difference between getting information that will help you get a more dimensional picture of your work and asking somebody else to manage your anxiety. When you’re in the throes of anxiety, that can be a hard difference to parse, and a professional might be helpful in sorting those.

    Sometimes a really important piece is being able to tolerate some ambiguity–even on contract people aren’t 100% certain of their job futures, but we find a way to be at peace with that most of the time. A lot of that comes from learning to trust yourself and to know what good work looks like when you’re doing it, so you know that you can survive the unexpected. (Which you can and did.)

    Reply
    1. Lil Fidget

      Also make sure you’re asking the right person. In my office we have a contractor who always asks me if I know how they’re doing, but doesn’t seem to realize that I’m not the decision maker and probably wouldn’t know even if they were at the end of the line.

      Reply
  14. Anon for This

    OP, I really encourage you to speak with a therapist if you can afford one, even if just for a few sessions. It’s plain from your letter that anxiety is sort of taking over your work life, and while you’re holding up okay, you shouldn’t have to live like that.

    In the short term, what helps when I’m feeling particularly anxious (I have PTSD) is to do some grounding techniques. Here’s a link with a few, many of which you can do unobtrusively at your desk: https://www.peirsac.org/peirsacui/er/educational_resources10.pdf .

    You can also try getting up and moving about, making some tea or coffee, etc. when you feel yourself starting to worry. The most important thing is to interrupt the flow of anxiety-provoking thoughts before they become overwhelming. Best of luck to you.

    Reply
  15. Danae

    OP, I am in your exact shoes—a contractor with no defined end date. I could be laid off at any moment (and other people in my group have been laid off without notice). I also have pretty severe anxiety.

    This is not my first contractor rodeo, though, and these are my strategies for getting through and allaying my warranted anxieties:

    1. Save like the dickens. Do not take on any monthly expenses that you can’t cancel (I haven’t had a gym membership in over a decade because of this). Live as cheaply as humanly possible, and try to keep your must-pay living expenses close to or under what you’d get on unemployment. I’m in the fortunate position that between my savings and unemployment, I’d be set for a year if I lost my job tomorrow.

    2. If you get PTO, and if the policy of your company is to cash out unused PTO after the job is over, take as little time off as possible. You’ll get some time off between jobs.

    3. In the situation you describe, if you get “fired” it’s almost always framed as a layoff. Check out the unemployment rules in your state—you’re likely to qualify if your job ends.

    4. Make a plan. I’m also a very high-anxiety person, and the only way I don’t lose it every day is because I have an actual written plan about what my very clear steps are if I come in tomorrow and am told I no longer have a job. I keep my resume updated, I keep my hand in the job search so I know who’s hiring right now, and I occasionally reach out to refresh my relationship with my references.

    5. Take care of yourself. Remind yourself that you are not your job, and that you will be okay even after this job ends. The nice thing about contracting is that it really is just a job. There will be others.

    Good luck! I’m rooting for you.

    Reply
  16. kracken

    I got fired from my second job out of college. What helped me deal with it was just being really honest with myself and potential employers about what happened. I think my experience is common. There were failings on my part and on my employer’s.

    I both failed to meet the expectations of the job and to ask for help when I needed it. At the same time, the expectations of the job were pretty unrealistic for someone as junior as I was, and my manager was a nasty, unapproachable person. When asked about it in job interviews I focused on the things that were within my control, like owning up to my mistakes and asking for help when I know I need it. I’m judging future employers based on my firing too. If I get an inkling that the culture or manager is at all like the place I got fired from I know to withdraw my application.

    I was only unemployed for two months after I was fired. Every employer I interviewed with made it explicitly clear they appreciated my honesty on the subject, and one even commiserated on getting fired from a job you simply know isn’t for you. I’ve had two jobs since then and have been a top performer at both. Getting fired doesn’t have to break you.

    Reply
  17. Allison

    I was fired from my first job – not blindsighted, I was on a PIP (although I thought I had more time to turn things around) and I knew my numbers weren’t great, but ever since then I’ve been worried about being fired, out of the blue, with no warning and no chance to turn things around. Especially during slow periods where there isn’t much to do so I end up goofing off on the web a bit more than usual, I’m like, crap, my boss is gonna find out and fire me! Or that she’ll let me go because things have slowed down and I no longer seem useful. Or she’ll be annoyed that I’m out of the office too much in a given period of time (is it my fault my friend’s getting married two weeks after my sister walks in her college commencement? NO!) I know that, logically, this is unlikely, that my boss and coworkers like me and appreciate my work, and my boss is reasonable enough that she would tell me if something was wrong before it became a huge, bad, termination-worthy problem.

    Reply
  18. Long time lurker, first time caller

    Oh my goodness, OP, we have the same story. And I’m sorry. But what I can say is that it does get better.

    I was also let go from what I thought was a dream job, my first out of grad school, and went through a period at my current job where I constantly panicked that the same thing would happen. This fall, I started taking anti-anxiety medicine but eventually came to a realization that I was treating a symptom, not the cause, of my anxiety. I switched doctors and had a long conversation with the new one. I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder and I have to say, with the proper medication, my overall work product has vastly improved (to the point that feedback is regular and positive) and I am working towards a promotion in the near future. I came to realize that this had affected my life for years and likely (read: definitely) contributed to the end of my last job. It was also a massive contributing factor to my anxiety back in the fall. After all, if I couldn’t concentrate on work and generally try to improve my own life, what the heck must be wrong with me? It was a downward spiral.

    OP, this is not to give medical advice. But perhaps having a look at whether there is a deeper cause of this anxiety can reap other benefits elsewhere. A therapist is a good place to go. Have the conversation with your PCP, too. It’s important.

    Reply
    1. selena81

      agreed on ‘possible deeper cause’
      it kinda sounds to me like OP is deliberately avoiding the talk with his managers that Alison is advising (his conscious mind wants feedback, his conscious mind says that it is better to know even if it is bad news, but his unconscious mind is unreasonably terrified), which i recognize as one of the symptoms of my autism

      Reply
  19. CDM

    After leaving toxic OldJob, my anxiety ramped up about six months into NewJob, and I found myself jumping every time newBoss said my name, fearing the worst, and dreading coming in every morning.

    Our brains are wired to see patterns and learn from experience, and my brain was well-trained by Toxic OldJob to tell me, increasingly stridently, that after a time period of calm everything was going to hit the fan again, immediately if not sooner.

    It took a couple more months for my brain to come to terms with the new normality, which was actually somewhat normal. The longer you spend in new jobs, the less of your brain space oldjob will be able to occupy. Time and experience help put oldjobs into more realistic perspective. Good luck.

    Reply
  20. Sara without an H

    OP, all of the advice given above is good. I’d just add a recommendation to take extremely good physical care of yourself. That includes diet, exercise, getting enough sleep, and limiting television and/or social media. Anxiety is a hungry beast. Don’t feed it.

    Reply
  21. Susan Sto Helit

    OP, your situation reminds me a little bit of being in an insecure relationship – you’re constantly afraid that they might end things with you, and that any little thing you do wrong could be the catalyst.

    Some people are cut out for no-strings relationships, and some people want commitment. You strike me as someone who’s in a no-strings job (permatemp), but would be much happier with the formalised commitment of a permanent position. It’s great that you enjoy your job, but if this element of it isn’t right for you then is it worth exploring your options in other places (or even asking this place if they’d be open to making your position a permanent one)?

    Another thing to remember, to continue the relationship analogy, is that sometimes things do end – and it’s often not your fault. Sometimes it’s just not right. Sometimes you get broken up with because it’s not the right time, it’s not the right person, or they just realised they wanted something different, and nothing you could have done would have made that go differently, and that sucks. But that acceptance can be peaceful on its own.

    Reply
    1. Observer

      I was thinking much the same thing about wanting / needing a more permanent type of relationship. But, you’ve put it SOOO much better than I would have.

      Reply
    2. designbot

      This is what I clicked through to say too. This sounds like this situation just doesn’t suit LW’s needs. What’s the line from Rent, “I’m looking for baggage that goes with mine”? This job’s baggage does not pair well with LW’s.

      Reply
  22. Oxford Coma

    My only suggestion is make certain that your meds are locked away in your desk if possible, or stashed inside your bag. (It isn’t clear from the preposition you chose whether they are in view or not.) As you mentioned, your script has a high correlation with overuse, and leaving them out in plain sight may put you at risk of someone else helping themselves to your meds.

    Reply
    1. laylaaaaah

      Also, sad as it is, some workplaces aren’t as disability/mental health friendly as you might want them to be. Stick them in a drawer- don’t feel conscious about taking them, but don’t have them in the open either.

      Reply
  23. Jaybeetee

    I was fired from a job some years ago – embarrassingly, the type of job that it’s supposed to be quite difficult to get fired from, but I was just *that* bad at it. :p (There was a lot going on in that particular situation, but I think even under the best of circumstances, I was poorly suited to that job.) It does do some damage for awhile. When I got my next (permanent) job, it probably took about 6 months for me to settle in and stop feeling like I was going to get fired on the spot every time there was a closed-door meeting or when the managers started whispering to each other (open plans offices…). One thing that helped me is that this job did have regular performance reviews, etc, and at the 6 month mark, my manager told me that a) I was doing just fine, and b) if I wasn’t, I would have already known that – that she wouldn’t have been doing her job if I were to just get blasted on a performance review without any prior warning that there were problems (let alone randomly fired). That conversation was huge in helping me relax there.

    Since your anxiety is so bad over this that you’re finding yourself needing meds to calm down, I also vote that you should check in with a therapist and learn some techniques to help manage that. I’m presently getting assessed for an anxiety disorder, and being scared all the time is a crappy way to live.

    Reply
  24. The Rat-Catcher

    That advice about having a plan in place for your worst-case scenario is spot-on and has been instrumental in both my life and my DH’s. When one of us is freaking out about some far-fetched possibility, the other will say “What would we do if that happened?” and plan it out. I don’t recommend it when the stakes are life-and-death because it gets morbid fast, but for situations like this one, when you suspect that your anxiety might be out of control, it’s a miracle approach.

    Reply
  25. mostlyspacetime

    I…. really feel this OP. My first full time permanent job after temping for a couple of years ended with them letting me go– saying “the company is moving in a different direction”/”your time here is done”. It totally blindsided me– my manager never had anything bad to say about my work (other than that I “should smile more” haha). The CEO, however, was known to be, um, eccentric and nitpicky– he once fired the HR manager because she sent an email with a typo in it. I was still really upset about getting let go (I’m still not sure how to classify this work-based breakup, haha). It took me a couple of months before I started a new job, but I did find a far better job! Which I loved, and again, got good feedback from– but I spent a significant amount of time terrified that I was going to be fired.

    I then got transferred (upwardly moved) to a manager who gives me weekly, detailed, and long term feedback–
    but that’s mostly because I learned to specifically ask for it. I have a good rapport with my manager, and usually ask something like, “Hey, is there anything I should be doing that I might be missing?/Is there anything you’d like me to focus on in the next week?” I usually also have more specific lists of questions from projects/roadblocks, as well. Having these touchpoints and open communication with my manager super helped me get past the anxiety– I know he’s okay with telling me when I’m doing something wrong, and I know that we have aligned expectations and it has super taken the weight off.

    Reply
  26. Margot the Destroyer

    I tend to have this cloud around ne about being let go often. I am an above average performer, but the company I am with restructures everything about once every year to 2 years to improve client experience. It can be pretty nerve wracking.

    I also started here similar to you. I left the education field and went into being a temp at this company for a 1 month project with about 40 other temps. After about a yr and a half 3 of us remained and they hired us all on. I have since moved on to other roles in the company, but that worry is always with me. I am still pretty unfamiliar with other areas within in the organization, so the thought of this job being eliminated and having to move to another role scares me due to lack of experience. I have always really wanted to be a business analyst, which is sort of my go to for the what do you want to be doing in 5 yrs question. However, that job always seems to be the first one to be eliminated, so I want to maybe rethink that.

    Reply
  27. HS Teacher

    When you have a bad termination experience it takes a long time to trust that a new employer may not do exactly the same thing. I was fired once while on vacation on the other side of the country. On my last day of work, my manager wished me an amazing vacation and said he’d see me in a week. While I was gone, they turned off my access. I called in, and they said it was just a computer glitch. On the day of my return they had already packed up my office. It was a really crappy way to treat an employee who’d received a 20% raise two months earlier and had no idea anything was wrong.

    To this day I don’t know why they fired me. That experience and feeling is one I’ll never forget, even though I changed industries and have no contact with my toxic ex-job. Alison’s advice about asking for feedback is exactly right, but beware they still may not be honest with you.

    Reply
  28. Drumtrip

    I was fired recently from a job I used to love. Through constant re-orgs I ended up in a role that I didn’t enjoy and was only moderately good at. After speaking with my manager about it and expressing my desire to move to a new role, I was fired two weeks later for “performance reasons” even though I had just received a “meets expectations” on my review.

    I was hired three months later by a company that has an incredible work environment, that truly values its people. My new job has a lot more responsibility, and will be extremely challenging, but my alternative was to take another job where the work is what I have always done. I felt if I didn’t take a risk I would continue to be unhappy.

    I am still terrified of failure and the shock and insecurity of being fired will probably follow me for a long time, at least until I get confident in my new role. I am willing to accept that though, it can be motivation to do my best, but I can’t let it overpower and self-sabotage me. My point is, try to take control of it, rather than it taking control of you. Recognize the reasons you got fired in the first place, don’t focus on blaming the company, and use those reasons as fuel to do better. Find what makes you happy, take risks, and seek challenges and maybe we will both find that getting fired was actually a blessing!

    Reply
  29. TiffanyAching

    To address your anxiety over getting in trouble for having the meds at your desk, you might consider letting your manager know that you have them, so that if anyone reports seeing you pop a pill, they have context for that. You don’t have to specify what kind of medication, but since it’s a prescription, you could say something like “I have a medical condition and sometimes need to take my prescription for it at work — the prescription doesn’t affect my ability to do the job, but wanted you to know in case you saw me taking a pill.” I did this exact thing at my job during college when I had an anti-anxiety prescription, and it helped me feel less like I needed to be secretive about my meds.

    This absolutely isn’t required, and don’t do it if your boss is the type to be nosy and/or alarmist about medical issues, but it might help ease your anxiety over this specific thing.

    Reply
  30. MicroManagered

    OP Try to keep in mind that this company called you back numerous times from a temp position. It’s more likely they did that because of your good work than they’re about-to-fire-you at any moment. I know logic can’t always combat medication-level anxiety in the moment, but I think as you start to tease apart some of those anxious thoughts (hopefully with the help of a therapist) you might be able to chip away at their power a bit.

    As others have rightly stated, they aren’t going to fire you for being in possession of medications which are prescribed to you. With that said, though, I would probably keep them in my purse rather than my desk unless you have a locked drawer. If there is a potential for abuse, there is a potential for theft. (I don’t think there’s anything to be fired over there either…that’s just more general life-advice. :)

    Reply
  31. Competent Commenter

    OP, I was fired from a job while 24 and pregnant, almost certainly because I was pregnant (based on some things my director said and observations of my coworkers). I was doing a good job with few resources. Other people also got fired. I wanted to leave the job anyway. I was able to negotiate that I’d “quit” and receive 7 weeks severance (the time until my baby was due). All that didn’t matter—it still hit me really hard and haunted me actively for quite a while. It made me feel like I wasn’t competent, and competence was a key identity of mine (uh, guess it still is because it’s even in my handle). I also have pretty bad anxiety. I’m now in my early 50s and still feel some emotional echoes from that job, they’re just much quieter than before. For example, I work at a state agency and when I’m really anxious about not being able to keep on top of my completely disproportionate workload, I remind myself that I’m not all that easy to fire. I find it comforting! I need that baseline reassurance even now.

    Just wanted you to hear yet another story of how firings can hit us hard, even if we haven’t done anything wrong, or not wrong enough to warrant firing.

    And I’ll second everyone else who is suggesting therapy. Anxiety has been a terrible burden for me and I’m grateful that relatively recently I tried antidepressants and found them very helpful for my anxiety. I’d done lots of therapy and it had helped, but in my case medication helped as much or more. I hope you find what works for you. And in the meantime, I hope you can find another, more permanent job.

    Reply
  32. Observer

    OP I really want to strongly support all the people who are recommending therapy. I just want to add a point here. A lot of the response seems to be assuming that you are coming from a somewhat dysfunctional job to a more functional one. I don’t disagree with that. But also, even if you had wound up in another dysfunctional job, I’d still say therapy. Even if you really had good reason to believe that this company would just fire you out of the blue a level of anxiety that requires medication to manage is very high, and it’s just not good for you. Besides, it’s miserable.

    Also, I would job search for a permanent job rather than a perma-temp job. There is just a bit more stability built in to that kind of job, and it sounds like something that would be beneficial to you.

    Reply
  33. Lora

    Totally been there. OP, I have been fired from a job because my boss found out that I was cooperating with an investigation HR had started about him having too much turnover! I have been “please take this large check and we’ll give you a good reference”‘d from a job where I was being sexually harassed by a manager – dude was groping me whenever he thought he could get away with it. I have been put on a PIP for informing my boss about a support engineer who was making bigoted comments to customers, because even mentioning that a colleague was inappropriate with a major client in the field was supposedly inappropriate (oddly, the colleague’s boss agreed that his guy was inappropriate and thanked me for reporting it, and my boss was later fired…for reporting on the inappropriate financial chicanery he found HIS boss was doing, so what goes around comes around).

    I think if you work at enough different places, by the end of your career you will run into at least one crazy terrible place. The only lesson you can draw from it is, “a non-trivial number of humans are just godawful asshats.”

    All you can do is your best.

    Reply
    1. 653-CXK

      Very much true.

      I was let go from my previous company after 21 years. It was officially for poor performance, but I hearily believe it was for (a) applying for a position that people in upper management wanted to put their “pet” in and got extremely upset about it, (b) mentioning in a (not-so-anonymous) survey that management doesn’t address stress and burnout issues (I was part of a production team), and used the auditing team to carry out management’s dirty work by looking at everything microscopically, (c) I knew a lot and had a good reputation among my colleagues, versus certain people in upper management, and (d) upper management wants cheaper, younger people (I am in my mid-40s) who don’t challenge what’s going on.

      The good thing – despite all my problems, my supervisor was behind me 100%, and tried her best to get me on the right path. I don’t fault her one bit for all she had to do (and tried to do – she told me as I was leaving she wanted to transfer me to another department, but management overruled her). I think she’s destined for bigger and better things.

      I was expecting my dismissal to be far worse emotionally and financially, but looking back, I’ll be just fine. I made sure to save, save, save, and have already applied for unemployment and set up interviews. I also have contacts with my former colleagues, who were equally shocked I was let go. I sometimes have pangs of regret and fear, but what helps me the most is that my dismissal was a ticket out of the toxicity the job entailed.

      Reply
      1. 653-CXK

        Some corrections…
        1. hearily = heartily.
        2. I knew a lot and had a good reputation among my colleagues, and certain people in upper management were threatened by that.

        Reply
  34. Dee

    Given how you describe your job situation, I don’t know what benefits you might have, but if you have access to an EAP, they may be able to help hook you up with a therapist and possibly provide a few free sessions.

    Reply
  35. TCPA

    LW, you are not alone! I have similar feelings any time my quarterly or annual reviews come up at work (a job I love). I get very anxious and worry about all the things I could have done wrong and all the reasons my boss may have to fire me. Of course, my reviews never end up as bad as I expect and my boss is a kind, reasonable person. The reviews typically end up going well despite all my worries!

    I am not a doctor, but coming from someone who also experiences work-related anxiety, something that has helped me immensely is meditation. I’ve noticed a huge decrease in my feelings of anxiety since meditating multiple times a week since January of this year. I use the app Headspace – it’s really great for beginners! [Obligatory disclaimer:] Might want to discuss it with your doctor/therapist first if you haven’t tried it yet, but I am really surprised at how much this has helped me and my mindset. I even feel like my ability to focus at work has improved.

    Best of luck! Remember that you are doing the best you can and the company is lucky to have you :) If you enjoy working there, maybe there’s an opportunity to stay on beyond this project.

    Reply
  36. Anon4this

    A few months ago, one of my team members got suddenly fired after 5 months with the company and it legitimately shocked all of us. It actually sent waves of paranoia throughout the team and some of us thought we were next on the chopping block. The reason we were all shocked is because this person wasn’t what we would call a bad employee – we all worked with her at some point and would call her smart. Our project supervisors consistently gave her positive feedback on her work. The only downside of hers I could think of was she wasn’t all that acclimated to office norms – she was under the impression that as long as you worked 8 hours a day, it didn’t matter when. However, according to her, our managers didn’t even warn her about that before letting her go.

    Good news is she got a higher paying job within a month!

    It’s also important to remember that what one office values is very subjective – usually according to 1-2 managers/bosses. What one manager considers to be a poor performer might be a great performer in other workplaces.

    Reply
  37. Star Nursery

    I can relate! I used to feel very anxious all the time that I’d be unexpectedly fired or let go. And anxious I was doing well. Part of it was related to a toxic work experience at one of the temp jobs. Part of it was from how difficult it was too find employment in my field after finishing my degree around the time the U.S. had a recession. Part of it was being in temp roles and the uncertainty of when the contractor position would end. Part of it was related to the loss of my parent (so that left me an anxious puddle from both personal reasons and work related worries… and I’m a conscientious worker so I tend to want to do my best. Each time I knew I made mistake I was like ‘oh no! How bad was that mistake? Will I get fired now?’) How would I my grad school student loans if I loose this job? All the uncertainty.

    What I felt didn’t match how the reality was though. My bosses had great things to say about how I was doing and I was given raises and a promotion. But still all the anxiety was there. I’m in a better place mentally now and I’m happy to have found a great company to work for. For my situation it was a combination of things to get me here:

    Finding a permanent job at a healthy company environment

    Picking a role that’s less stressful

    to be less invested in my job (not sure how to word this part!) I care to do a great job and I care about my company. I don’t mean disengage… But just a more healthy this is-my-job but my worth is not tied to it. I don’t have to please everyone. Just my boss and their priorities.

    Working though the loss of my parent (to acceptance stage of grief)

    A lot of self care! Focus on sleep hygiene, eating well, having fun outside work, putting boundaries on the number of hours I worked in a week and a day, cutting back caffeine, taking breaks and lunches

    and working on my mindsets about my worth as a worker, getting the reframing of the events to be less catastrophic more in my control, working on seeing my performance with more objectivity (I’m getting raises, I’m getting positive reviews, I’m a human who is going to make mistakes and my non toxic job isn’t going to fire me just without notice because they will work through improvements with others so they would do the same for me)

    Echoing all the others. Find a good counselor to help with cognitive behavioral therapy approach.

    Hope this helps!!

    Reply
  38. KP1022

    Armchair therapist here, but OP, the level of panic you’re experiencing sounds like you may have some level of PTSD from your first job experience. I 100% agree that some talk therapy is a route you should seriously consider. Even just a few sessions could really help you, in addition to employing the excellent advice you’ve received here! Hugs and best of luck!

    Reply

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