How to Conquer Your Biggest Work-related Fears

The office can be a hotbed of challenges. At best, they prompt us to push forward and advance our careers. At worst, the attendant angst can reduce a chance to triumph into a cause for fear.

Heidi Golledge, founder of CareerBliss, says that among the millions of users who answer questions on its jobs platform, the following workplace fears ranked highest:

1. Fear of falling short of a manager’s expectations

2. Fear of not fitting in at work

3. Fear of losing their job

4. Fear of settling for their job

5. Fear of being stagnant

Golledge says some of these fears aren’t rational or realistic. “Many folks have nightmares about (losing a job) regularly, even when their work performance is stellar,” she says. And the rise of social media has made people hyper-aware of others’ perceived success. “The easy ability to see friends’ and strangers’ lifestyles, the feeling that others are learning new technologies, going on better vacations, and climbing the corporate ladder better than you, is pervasive in folks who feel stuck at a certain level at work,” Golledge explains. “The rise of social media has made people hyper-aware of others’ perceived success.

Fast Company columnist Harvey Deutschendorf reminds us to take Eleanor Roosevelt’s counsel to heart: “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

That’s easier said than done when you’re standing outside the conference room door, quaking with anticipation before a big meeting/performance review/presentation. So we polled the experts to get some helpful tips to quell the fear before it takes over and thwarts our opportunity to shine.


The first thing to realize is that no matter what the situation, it is perfectly normal to feel this way. You are in good company, judging by the results of these surveys. So seek out some support among your colleagues. Deutschendorf recommends acknowledging your feelings and sounding them out to others. This takes a great deal of the sting and power out of fear, he explains, because keeping it bottled up makes it bigger than it needs to be.


“Being confident and trusting your skills, abilities, and team will empower both yourself and your colleagues and will contribute to a more encouraging and reliable work environment,” says Golledge. Open the door to team communication with a weekly or daily meeting, she advises, grab a cup of coffee with your boss, or set aside time to check with your team to learn how you can communicate more effectively. “By opening dialogue, many of the fears we have can be eliminated.”


Doing something new can strike fear in the hearts of the most intrepid risk takers. That’s when dipping in a toe at a time can be better than jumping in all at once. Deutschendorf recommends breaking a big risk like striking out on your own into smaller bits that still help move you in the direction of your goal. Maybe you can start helping someone who is doing what you want to do on a part-time basis, he says, before giving up your full-time job.


One of the biggest obstacles to achieving our goals often boils down to a fear of failure. This comes cloaked in a variety of excuses such as, “I don’t have time,” or even, “I can’t because I don’t know how . . . ” That’s when entrepreneur Faisal Hoque says to remember that regrets are worse than failures. “If only I had” or “I wish I had” can be powerful motivators.

“Once we shift our mindset from being the victim to being the bold one who wants to achieve their destiny, we have to take action,” Hoque says. “When we are scared, often we fill our days with busy work to avoid real issues. This avoidance through being busy justifies our lack of progress. To move forward, we must stop spending our valuable time on mundane activities.”


When we fear failure or worry that we are inadequate at our job, we often have the urge to take everything on ourselves in an effort to prove our worth. Carson Tate says that the first step to effectively let go and delegate – which boosts productivity and builds better teams – is to understand the psychological roots of our avoidance. “Ask yourself what you lack faith in,” she writes.

Then she advises looking at the task or project to determine which parts bring you the most joy, rather than a sense of duty. “This liberating exercise will help you get clear about your value and the unique contributions you make to your organization,” Tate says. “And separating the essential tasks from the ones you can consider passing on to others will also help silence that voice in your head telling you that you must do it all,” she adds.


Fear sets us up to expect to have to be the best/smartest/most skilled at everything we do. Scientific research proves that this is a common human condition based in our ancestral need to forage and survive that emphasizes performance rather than learning.

In new situations, this dynamic is particularly in play, says Babson College professor Keith Rollag. So give yourself a break from that, he advises: “Remember that our brains have evolved to see new situations as far more risky than they are these days. Even if things don’t go as well as you hoped, the outcome is rarely fatal, and one of the nice things about our crowded, dynamic world is that there are always other people, groups, and opportunities to pursue.”


This article was written by Lydia Dishman from Fast Company and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

How to Conquer Your Biggest Work-related Fears
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