Fear in the workplace is becoming more common and every employee and manager should know how to manage fear. It is true that situations affect people in various ways and we don’t always respond the same. However, unlike stress which can have a positive effect, fear tends to be debilitating and paralysing.
Fear can result from anxiety about change, worrying about losing your job, apprehension about a new task, or doubting your own abilities.
Not allowing any type of fear to affect your performance will help you succeed in your career. With the right attitude, you can successfully manage your fears in the workplace.
Fear is described as a negative feeling about a perceived threat or danger. Fear usually affects a person’s behaviour and can have physical consequences. For example, fear can cause a person to run away, freeze on the spot, hide, have clammy palms, or even feel physically ill.
Most physiologists describe this action as a fight-or-flight response.
It is clear that acting out of fear in the workplace can have a detrimental effect on your performance.
For example, because of a perceived negative result from making a mistake on a project, an employee could try and cover over mistakes. Or, doubting your own strengths could prevent you from going for that big promotion.
What can you do to deal with perceived threats or concerns about the outcome of a difficult situation?
Let’s look at 3 common situations at work where fear can hold you back from success. You will also find out how to deal with these fears in the workplace.
Fear of embarrassment in the workplace could be holding back your career. This could be a failure to make a contribution during meetings, being unsure of yourself when making a presentation, or even taking too long to finish a project.
One way to manage this type of fear is to realise that everyone makes mistakes. Avoiding situations where you might ‘trip up’ could actually prevent you from furthering your career.
Usually, mistakes give us a chance to learn and improve on what we have done. In many ways, failure and mistakes are a good environment in which to grow and develop.
There is another positive side of not fearing embarrassment at work. The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology reported that embarrassment actually leads to more positive outcomes socially. Other employees show greater trust in others who experience embarrassment and this can even make them want to get to know the person better. (1)
Fear of failure is one of the biggest fears that many employees have at work. A fear of failure can even put you in the mindset where failure is the inevitable outcome because of low self-confidence.
Of course, it is only natural to experience failures in life. However, failure gives you the chance to grow and learn from lessons.
To help get over the fear of failure, there a number of things you can do:
Worrying about being rejected can hold you back from furthering your career. It may make you pass up of going for that job interview or submitting your ideas to your boss.
In many cases, it is important for managers and team leaders to foster an environment where employees feel valued and respected. This will encourage employees to present their ideas or reach out for promotions.
If you are an employee and you fear rejection, it may be necessary to try and change your thinking to overcome your fear of rejection. For example, rather than think that you will probably be rejected for the promotion, focus your mind on your goal of getting the promotion.
When the desire to achieve your goals grows and becomes your focus, fears of rejection will disappear – or, at least be less tangible.
Remember, fear usually runs away the more you chase it. Even though fear is a strong and powerful emotion, you can manage it successfully. At the same time, you may learn more about yourself and be able to make small achievable goals that will help you conquer your fears in the long run.