That familiar fluttering of butterflies before a client presentation. The unshakable dread of an appraisal. Those crushing feelings that you’re never good enough.
Fear and anxiety at work are very real experiences for employees. According to Headsup, in the past 12 months, as many as one in five Australian employees report they have taken time off work due to feeling stressed, anxious or mentally unwell.
Whether it’s being terrified your project isn’t good enough or that you’re always being overlooked for a promotion, fear manifests in many forms in the workplace.
It can be one of the most self-limiting states of mind. When you are stressed and scared, you are more likely to be unproductive and unhappy. When left unchecked, fear at work can often lead to taking days off work, and in the long term, potentially hinder your career progression.
The good news is that there are sure-fire ways to prevent fear getting the better of you. Here, we examine how it can rear its ugly head in the workplace, and what steps you can take to go from worrying to winning!
Fear of public speaking - glossophobia
“Being a little nervous when you present means that you really care about what you have to say.”
Let’s face it, few enjoy standing up in front of colleagues or clients to rattle out sales reports or pitch presentations. In fact, according to the Journal of Anxiety Disorders, as many as 80% of Aussies are afraid of public speaking.
Coping with sweaty palms and a quickening heartbeat is one thing, though if it means actively not speaking up in meetings or avoiding presentations, glossophobia can may start to hinder your career. It can prevent you from sharing your ideas, talents and solutions, potentially stop you from achieving your potential – even though you have all the skills and smarts.
How to overcome fear of public speaking at work
Public speaking is a skill that can be learnt - even the best speakers still get nervous. If you fear stumbling, the secret is in planning.
You don’t need to memorise a speech but plot key facts, figures, and points on cue cards to prompt you along the way. Practise and rehearse beforehand if it helps you. Know your audience and address them directly. Get a good night's sleep before your presentation, avoid jitter-inducing caffeinated drinks, and practise some relaxation or breathing techniques before you hit the boardroom podium.
Fear of failure – atychiphobia
“Develop success from failures. Discouragement and failure are two of the surest steppingstones to success.”
Have you turned down a promotion? Do you avoid taking on projects because you feel you can’t accomplish them? Does the thought of taking leadership or standing out make you recoil? If so, you may be suffering a fear of failure.
Atychiphobia can be debilitating, causing procrastination, avoidance of risk taking and an all-around reduction in enjoyment of life.
How to overcome fear of failure at work
Eliminating fear of failure is all about reframing your mindset. Establish what is causing it first; is it down to tripping up in the past? Or are you just a perfectionist with unreachable standards? Try to use past mistakes as valuable lessons rather than evidence that you’re incapable.
Then, cultivate a mindset of growth and appreciation of challenges. By visualising where you want to be and seeing fear-inducing ‘threats’ as exciting opportunities you will be less prone to avoidance and procrastination.
Finally, go easy on yourself. If you do “fail”, it doesn’t matter, you’re human. Practising self-care and compassion will silence that inner critic that is holding back your career.
Fear of missing out – FOMO
“FOMO is the enemy of valuing your own time.”
Fear of missing out doesn’t just apply to worrying about what your friends are up to on Instagram, it applies to work as well. Linked to low self-esteem and loneliness, FOMO is a very real phenomenon that can kill confidence. At work, you may feel like your colleagues get first pick at the best projects, or you get overlooked at networking opportunities.
When you feel like you’re always looking in from the sidelines, there are ways you can make yourself more present and included.
How to overcome FOMO at work
To start with, remind yourself having FOMO from time to time can be a good thing; it shows you’re eager to maximise your professional potential. Then, actively do as much as you can to be as engaged as possible and nurture those face-to-face connections.
This could mean lunching with colleagues rather than solo al-desko. If your workload allows it, offer to take on extra tasks that can showcase your skills, knowledge and abilities. If meetings are optional, make sure you attend.
If you’re genuinely still feeling overlooked, speak to your boss and articulate your desire and willingness to feel and be more connected to the company and your role.
“Never, ever, ever, write off anything you’ve achieved as merely being lucky. You are not lucky: you are hard-working and capable. Don’t ever question it.”
Your performance is killer, you always hit targets and you’re the apple of your boss’s eye, yet you can’t shake the feeling you’re unworthy of your position and on the brink of being fired.
Otherwise known as the fear of being found out, imposter syndrome is a personality construct underpinned by feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt. Although imposter syndrome may not directly be ruining your career (in actuality many sufferers are high achievers) it certainly deals a sucker punch to your self-esteem.
How to overcome imposter syndrome at work
Imposter syndrome is a psychological, often irrational condition. When you fear that you’re going to be found out, start by separating your feelings from the facts. Acknowledge your feelings of self-doubt but release them and draw up a list of your actual achievements to validate how great you are.
Avoid comparing yourself to your colleagues and go easy on yourself if your perfectionist leanings cause you to feel like you’re never good enough. Be realistic about your expectations and goals. Chances are you’ve set standards for yourself that likely can’t be achieved.
Fear of success – ‘achievemephobia’
“Fear of success can be just as crippling as fear of failure.”
Believe it or not, it’s possible to be fearful of succeeding – or at least what the future may hold should you nail that promotion. At its core, fear of success (dubbed ‘achievemephobia’) can be highly self-sabotaging.
The opposite of fearing failure, fearing success is worrying about how others may react to your achievements. Will you alienate colleagues? Are you even capable of handling a senior position? Should you just quit anyway? These are all questions you could find yourself asking.
How to overcome fear of success at work
If you catch yourself just doing enough to get by and keep your goals low, it could be that you’re subconsciously trying to derail your success.
Some meaningful introspection will help establish the source of your achievemephobia. Explore the origins of what makes you want to fly under the radar instead of making a splash. How do your feelings inform your actions and choices at work?
Then remind yourself that you deserve success and are capable of it. Focus on what makes you great in your job, then visualise where you want to be. Be inspired and excited by opportunities rather than avoiding them.
Fear of your boss - bossophobia
“Fear is when you don’t have a boss. When you have a captain in your ship you should simply relax.”
Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Perhaps you find them hard to approach? Maybe you feel your performance will be negatively judged? Or do you stutter and stumble in their presence? Whether your superior is a genuine ball breaker, or you’ve had bad past experiences that distorts perceptions of your manager, ‘bossophobia’ can erect stubborn career roadblocks.
If you want success, you cannot fear your boss. Cultivating a healthy open dialogue based on mutual respect is key. Mistakes made from out of lack of communication can be a large part of the issue.
How to overcome bossophobia at work
Consider the root cause of your bossophobia. Is it an irrational one stemming from a previous experience? Or are they genuinely hard to get along with?
Then, find ways you can build a better relationship and stop being paralysed and under-performing. If there is a genuine issue, confront them respectfully and professionally. Although daunting, it will feel empowering and build confidence.
Take extra care to align with your boss’s expectations and try to anticipate what they want. In short, make yourself indispensable and irreplaceable. It helps to humanise your boss too. Do they behave the same way to others? If so, it’s nothing personal to you.
1 Overcome glossophobia with meticulous preparation, planning and practising relaxation techniques.
2 Don’t allow atychiphobia to hold you back by cultivating a growth mindset and reframing ‘threats’ as exciting opportunities.
3 In terms of FOMO at work, do what you can to nurture face-to-face interactions. Be present in meetings and take on projects that will let your abilities shine.
4 Overcome imposter syndrome by drawing up a list of your achievements and learning to separate facts from feelings. Go easy on yourself and don’t set yourself unrealistic standards.
5 Find the source of your fear of success and examine how your feelings influence your choices. Remind yourself you’re capable of success and deserve it.
6 Make yourself indispensable to overcome bossophobia. As daunting as it may seem, take steps to build a closer relationship with your boss so your confidence improves.
If you are open to new opportunities, contact a recruitment agency like Trojan Recruitment Group and receive advice from the experts in labour-hire, permanent and contract staff.