How to Identify and Eliminate Fears in Your Career

Learn tips on how to identify and eliminate fears in your career//Nadzeya_Dzivakova/Getty Images Plus

We live and work in an era of rapid change, violent disruption, and great uncertainty. A certain degree of fear is natural, and unfortunately, inevitable. Today’s workplace environment can be very daunting and brings with it many challenges. According to author Amanda Setili, company owners, leaders, and employees alike must learn to productively coexist with fear to achieve any measure of career success. "Just as organizations must be bold, agile, and constantly reinventing themselves, so must the individuals who lead and work in them," says Setili, author of Fearless Growth: The New Rules to Stay Competitive, Foster Innovation, and Dominate Your Markets. In order to calm your fears, it is important to first be able to identify the worries you have, and then follow-up with action to combat those uncertainties. 

Setili describes six fear red flags to be aware of, and five fear busters:

The Six Red Flags of Fear:

  • You hold back your good ideas instead of speaking up: When you are about to voice your opinion, do you often stop yourself, afraid of what others might think? 

  • You procrastinate on the big stuff: Have you put off acting on important priorities, letting the task slip to the bottom of your to-do list for days, weeks, or months on end? This can be a sign that you fear that you won't do the task well, or that it will backfire somehow.
     
  • You perpetually play it safe: Do you find yourself taking the safest and least controversial actions at work, even when you know that the "safe route" is the wrong action to take? 
     
  • You're always looking for someone to blame: When things aren't going as well as you'd like, is your first impulse to explain how others in the organization contributed to the problem? Fear of being blamed for poor results can be debilitating. You waste time avoiding blame, rather than putting your energy into taking needed action. 
     
  • You sugarcoat the truth or tell lies of omission: This often happens when we are afraid to deliver bad news. Perhaps you don't tell your subordinate that she needs to improve performance or you don't share with your boss bad news you received from a customer. 
     
  • You don't trust others to do their part: A department manager at a large manufacturing company worked long hours, yet accomplished far less than he could have, because he was afraid to delegate to his team and didn't trust his peers enough to ask them to contribute to his most important projects. However, this attitude doesn't work in today's fast-moving world. If you aren't moving fast, as a team, the competition will pass you by.

Five Ways to Bust Your Fears:

  • If you feel hesitant to speak up about a new idea, paint a clear vision, work with others to identify and address the obstacles, and get going. Fear thrives on vagueness, while clarity fosters courage.
     
  • Test the waters before jumping in full-force. The unknown is scary. When you are operating in unfamiliar territory, you don't know what dangers may be lurking. The key is to stick one foot in, then the other, before committing 100 percent.
     
  • Help others feel safe. When you work to calm the fears of your coworkers, you will feel more confident yourself. 
     
  • Share bad news, and potential solutions, promptly. Sharing the bad news immediately helped Jennifer build trust with her peers. They had been blindsided in the past when her predecessor had avoided delivering bad news until late in the game.
     
  • Take responsibility immediately when things go wrong (even if it isn't really your fault). Fear can arise from a feeling of helplessness. When you take full responsibility for what you can control, you don't have to worry that someone else might drop the ball and that, subsequently, you will be blamed. 

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