One of the most admirable answers to the question, ‘But weren’t you scared?’ from daredevils, astronauts, fighter-pilots and the like, is often, ‘Yes, but I knew what I needed to do.” They might have been afraid in the midst of the task they knew they needed to perform, but they did it anyway. Similarly at work, we also must do those things that scare us, because quite simply, it’s our job and we’re expected to do it well. Whether it means taking that overseas business trip to a place you’ve never been and wondering if you’ll like the people or the food, or embarking on a new working relationship with someone who intimidates you, the workplace is filled with all sorts of potentially scary situations. Here are some examples of ways to mitigate those workplace fears.
I – Fear of a New Boss
Some people love to find ways to intimidate their co-workers. They think it gives them power in the workplace, and they think it makes them less vulnerable to the threats of demotion or job loss. Others live in constant fear of those intimidators, attempting to avoid them in meetings, in empty hallways, and anyplace where direct, uncomfortable interaction might be required. But what do you do if you happen to be one of the intimidated and suddenly must report to an intimidator? As hard as it might be, face them head on. Just as you would if they were a scary-looking dog and you had to walk right up to them and pat ‘em on the head. Don’t stutter or shake or sweat, or they’ll sense your fear and bite the hand that pats them. But, approach them, afraid or unafraid, and be your best, calm, centered professional self.
II – Fear of Being Fired
Unfortunately, in many cases there may not be much one can do to prevent the loss of a job. But, there is much one can do to be sure the fear of being laid off doesn’t consume you to the point of making you less effective at work. Just like managing many other fears, a good way of managing fear of job loss is to work through it. And don’t just work hard, work smartly. Think of at least one way each day that you can do something extra at work to show your value and make your bosses see what a great asset you are. Instead of simply keeping your head down, and hoping the long arm of the lay-off law doesn’t reach in your direction, step up, stand out, and give it all you’ve got. You might find that your focus on being more productive at work might even serve as an excellent distraction from your fears. And even if the worst happens and you lose your job anyway, then at least you know you did everything you could to prevent it.
III – Fear of Conflict
The fear of conflict has got to be one of the most common fears exhibited by people at work, and probably in other areas of their lives. Fear of conflict is natural – most people feel uncomfortable in situations that may cause them to have to confront someone about something and in the process create a little conflict. It’s unpleasant, and most of us would rather avoid it than deal with it head on.
Fear of conflict is particularly difficult for managers. For example, many managers would rather ignore an employee’s performance problem or delay addressing it, rather than giving the necessary feedback and fixing the problem right away. It’s not that the manager is a bad one, per se, or lazy, but rather that they don’t want to create conflict, and in most cases are simply afraid of it. They think that by not addressing it, the performance problem might go away, or become someone else’s problem to solve. However, just as with all things that scare us, they sometimes just become scarier if we don’t confront our fear. So, managers would do well to just acknowledge performance problems for what they are, get some advice from a mentor or HR on how to confront the problem, and do their very best deal with it immediately and not let it fester. Almost all fears, if not dealt with in some way or another, only grow with time, and then consume us to the point of being immobilized by them. And what good would that do? Why be fearful at work, when the fearless alternative is so much more productive.
by Melanie Haniph