Managing Fear

  • Dec 22, 2005
  • Vicky Smith
  • Career advancement

Workplaces are filled with employees who hate their jobs but are afraid to move on.  The paralysis stems from a misguided belief that the regular pay cheque coming in provides security. By succumbing to our fear of change, we give up our power to choose.  We leave it to others to determine when we get the ‘pink slip’, which shatters our false security. 


Fear is devastating because it blocks true realization of the potential we possess to enhance our lives.  Peter Urs Bender, in his book ‘Leadership from Within’ states, “Fear is rampant in our society.  We are afraid to lose our jobs.  Afraid of crime and the state of our environment.  We are also afraid to take risks to fail or speak out.  Fear blocks our feelings about doing and saying what comes naturally.”


Our fears are deep seated and inhibit risk taking, which could positively alter our lives.  The various fears that hold us back are the fear of:

·         Being embarrassed

·         Dealing with conflict

·         Losing control

·         Being rejected

·         Losing status


Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Do the thing we fear, and the death of fear is certain.”  Before we can act we need to understand the fears that hold us in unhappy and stressful situations.  When was the last time you took a day with no interaction or interruptions to reflect on your vision for your work life and what holds you back from realizing it?  Interestingly, most of us baulk taking time to reflect and conveniently use the worn out excuse of being too busy.  It really isn’t about time but about the anxiety of uncovering issues where decisions and changes might need to be made.


Taking the time to do some honest self-assessment is the first bold step to confronting fear.  Bender states, “The world we live in brings thousands of challenges – financial, emotional, and physical.  Many bring pain and frustration.  You can go through them kicking and cursing, wishing things would stay the same, holding on to what you have or you can make a decision to change.”


Making decisions to act on our fears requires risk taking and most of us don’t like taking risks.  Maxwell Maltz said, “often the difference between a successful person and a failure is not better abilities or ideas but the courage that one has to bet on one’s ideas to take a calculated risk – and to act.”


Bender gives the following suggestions to stretch beyond our comfort zone:

  • Do things you don’t usually do – if you never set goals, set a few and achieve them
  • Repeat an uncomfortably activity – if you fear something do it as many times as it takes for you to feel comfortable
  • Make choices – start with small decisions and the graduate to bigger ones
  • Make definite statements – make clear decision statements using words like ‘I will’ or ‘I won’t’
  • Act now instead of procrastinating – ask yourself:  while procrastination may be comfortable, am I getting the results I want?
  • Risk not being perfect – if you wait until you know everything, you will never act


Having fears is normal – it’s the way we’ve been socialized.  It’s difficult to take risks when we are not sure whether they will really lead to having more fulfilled lives.  But it all boils down to how happy are you in your job?


If the answer is very happy – consider yourself very fortunate because you’re in the minority.  If you’re not happy consider what changes you need to make.  Tackle your fears by setting small goals initially and accomplishing them.


Look at yourself as the director of your life.  Tackle each day by asking “What can I create or experience that’s within my control to change?”  Can you imagine the positive impact on your life if you disciplined yourself to ask that question before starting each day and reflected on your accomplishments at the end of each day?


We cannot eradicate fear our lives but we can manage it.  Good management comes from understanding what we fear and making bit size decisions to overcome it.  Life is just too short to go to work every day and hate it.