Chronic Workplace Fear and You
Workplace fear. We’ve all been there. One foot forward and we’ll be stepping on new ground, if we could just plant our foot.
My first day just happened to be starting with flying 3,000 miles across the pond to West Virginia, it was June 2014 and I was on my way to Camp America.
I was 19. After an early wake up call, a crying mother and avoidance of horrendeous aeroplane food, I’d finally landed.
Little ol’ me in the big apple.
I really had no idea what I was in for. I’d completed an online application and a Skype interview and that was the extent of my interaction with the people who I’d be spending the next 3 months with. Not 9–5. 24/7 for the next 3 months.
So how do we plant our feet and step into the unknown. How do we muster up the courage, take a deep breath and step?
Here’s how you reduce workplace fear.
Rationalise Fear – Workplace Fear
Day one at any workplace is anxiety inducing. What to wear, what to say, where to go, who to talk too. It’s a lot to process. And sometimes we find that the process overloads us. That’s understandable, this is all very new and you are as inexperienced as you will ever be. It makes sense that we’ll stay up the night before worrying about these things.
In fact, if we’re honest, it’s probably been on our mind days and weeks before we actually start. We are plagued with thoughts about catastrophes. What if we get fired on the first day, what if our trousers rip and everyone laughs. Despite the fact that these things have never ever happened to you so far in your multiple years of living, the fears somehow feel relevant.
But let’s be honest, you’d have to do something pretty bad to get sacked on the first day and how often have your trouser ripped ever? The answers to our fears seem logical and pretty easy but somehow the numbing worry still presides.
When we fear things like how an interaction will go for example we can ask ourselves a series of questions:
How many times has an interaction gone wrong?
How many times did I not have enough to say?
Lastly, how often do I talk to people and how well does that go?
And my personal favourite:
What would 5 year old me do?
As kids we are so care-free. We embrace the world and all it has to offer. We play with courage, communicate with honesty and approach life with creativity and curiosity. When you first start anything (nursery, school, University, an after-school club) you are nervous but an hour or two in you’re flying. Remember you’ve started something new a million times and you made it this far.
Rationalise the workplace fear can make it feel like it isn’t fear at all, it’s just a passing thought.
Understanding It’s All A Game
Rollo May said in 1977: “we are no longer prey to tigers and mastodons but to damage our self-esteem, ostracism by our group, or the thread of losing out in the competitive struggle. The form of anxiety has changed, but the experience remains relatively the same.”
And it’s true. We don’t fear tigers but we fear being a social outcast, being rejected and not being part of society as a whole.
And that stems from expectations.
Ask any 20-something and they’ll tell you exactly how much they should be earning, what type of job is considered acceptable and how much they should have saved in their bank account.
We know what is expected of us without anyone telling us. We know because of the subtle communications that are fed to us through the media and our lives. A congratulations on a social media post for securing a fancy office job, questions about when we are going to settle down, looming pressures of getting a mortgage and having 2.5 kids.
We know what the typical life is and in many ways we are encouraged to live it. But the truth is, you are completely in control of this life of yours. It might not feel like it all the time but how you spend your time and what you do with you life — well that’s all up to you. Sure they’re bits, unfortunately that we can’t control but there is so much we can control. Too much in many respects.
Once you realise that this is all your choice. You chose to get the job and work in the office, you chose to go to that meeting, you chose to be this person. And you can chose to embrace the unknown and take the leap.
What’s the worst that can happen?
You Have The Power – Workplace Fear
If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke it at any moment. Marcus Arielus
We often fight in our own heads. Sentences that start ‘what if’ are the most dangerous battles to fight because they have no conclusion. Unless you say to yourself ‘what if’ I didn’t estimate this as being a big deal.
What are some of the most common things we fear in the workplace?
Speaking up in meetings
Not meeting our boss’s expectations
Not knowing anyone on the first day
What if we estimate these things as little things. Things to not hold much baring on ours moods because we know that speaking up in meetings is easy, it involves speaking and we do that every day. Not meeting our boss’s expectations is something we can figure out by asking what her expectations are. Not knowing anyone on the first day is easy to, you won’t know anyone but day two you will.
We often forget that we are in complete control. Our minds are writing the narrative of our lives. You will want to write one that builds you up and encourages you to do all the things you want to achieve in your life.
If we take away the weigh these things hold they then become feathers. Nothing to worry about and they can just glide over us and we can watch them float past.
The trouble is fear keeps us from doing the things that would really push us. By fearing the unknown we never step into it which in some respects lead to the most scary outcome of all. Never knowing. Fear and anxiety are very commonplace in the world we live in today. More than 40 million adults in the US suffer from Anxiety each year and it’s actually the most prevalent mental health disorder world wide.
So what to take away?
Learn to identify the fear — when are you feeling fear and ask yourself some questions rationalise it
Manage it — Understand it’s a game and you are in control
Remember you have the power — make your estimate of it little
When I began writing I feared it. But 79 articles later I’ve realised I have nothing to be scared about. There are no tigers and I’d rather step into the unknown then never know.