The ‘F’ Word, do we talk about it as much as we should?

Hannah Sims · 25 Apr

It’s that feeling you get at the top of a roller coaster, right before the drop. It’s the way your palms sweat and your hands shake before a big presentation.


Most of us have at least one, and for the most part it isn’t something that hinders us on a day-to-day basis. But are we really honest about what scares us? Do we talk about fear as much as we should?

According to science experts, we aren’t born with any fears besides loud noises and being dropped. Every other fear develops over time from observing peoples’ reactions to certain situations and from the effects of patterns that have played a part in our lives since birth.

In other words, fear is a product of nurture, not nature. And the good news in that? We can do something about it!


So what does fear have to do with work?

Fear is not always a bad thing: it keeps our adrenaline pumping and keeps us motivated. It can be a really positive influence and driving force in life.

However, when our fear stops us from taking action, especially in a workplace setting, it is important to tackle it. New research has shown that more and more employees feel uncomfortable, or even afraid, of speaking up at work. The problem? A workforce that lacks the confidence to express their ideas in a private or public setting or to voice their concerns over professional issues is not a workforce that is going to drive a business forward.

Let’s take a look at the most common causes of fear in the workplace and see if we can come up with some ideas to fix them:

1. The fear of conflict or challenge

Conflict isn’t something most people like to deal with. Confrontation is difficult and uncomfortable and, for this reason, employees often keep quiet and don’t confront their boss or supervisor if an issue arises. This can be due to a lack of confidence or due to feelings of unfamiliarity between management and employees.

Action: Employers should make a conscious effort to open up the lines of communication. A great way to do this is to start recognising the work employees do on a more regular basis. The team need to know that their employer values their feedback and decisions. The next time a conflict transpires, staff will be more likely to make their voices heard so both parties can work together to find the best solution.


2. The fear of failure

For some, the opportunity for promotion brings excitement. For others, it brings questions of self-doubt – a feeling that causes employees to hold themselves back from improvement, as they envisage everything crashing and burning the moment they make a change. Sometimes all it takes to fix this is a little intrinsic motivation, affirmation from a boss or supervisor (they did think you could handle it in the first place, after all!), and support from your team of coworkers.

Action: If Plan A doesn’t work, have a little look at Plan B. And if Plan B is still tricky, the alphabet has plenty of other letters to choose from.

“If at first you don’t succeed – try, try again.” – Robert the Bruce

So an employee has been working hard to overcome their fear of speaking up and making decisions. Now they are excelling and people are beginning to take notice. Brilliant, right?

Uh oh, new obstacle: jealousy.

Sometimes jealousy can create an atmosphere of exclusion and resentment, which worries employees, causing them to panic, step back and let others take control.
Instead of being a follower, consider the fact that any regrets in life should be about what you have done, not what you haven’t. Don’t lose momentum.


Action: The next time you feel that familiar knot forming in your stomach, consider these 5 easy tips to help you overcome your fear:

  1. Understand where your fear has come from
  2. Remind yourself that your fear may be excitement – recognise the difference
  3. Turn your fear into a positive – as Papa Roach said, “Face Everything And Rise”
  4. Put yourself first
  5. Find a coach or mentor who can help you along the way

There are loads of great resources out there that can help you understand and conquer your fears, whether that is an intimidating boss or a hairy spider. Or a hairy boss for that matter.

At Perkbox, we’ve teamed up with Kelly Fryer to offer a free* online course to help you overcome those fears that limit you in everyday life! To access your free class, please click here: “The ‘F’ Word – Recognising and Overcoming Fear”

*first 500 sign-ups are free, so you’ve got to be quick!

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