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Everyone is afraid of something, so don’t be fooled by people who say they’re not. But it’s those fears that creep up when you’re at work that can really derail your career progress. Awareness of your fears is the first step in trying to address and eliminate them. But you have to act on that awareness to try to keep them from standing in the way of your personal success.

Here are five of the most common fears associated with work and what you can do to try to overcome them.

  1. Fear of public speaking or making presentations

No one was born a public speaker and even seasoned public speakers sometimes  experience butterflies in their stomachs when they have to present in front of a crowd – whether they know the audience or not. In fact, some people think it’s actually easier to stand before a crowd when they don’t know their audience at all.

Many employees will go out of their way to avoid tasks, projects or even promotions that will require them to give presentations. But the only way to truly overcome this fear is to practice, practice and practice some more. There are even groups that can help you learn public speaking skills – and at no cost to you!

Another way to get over the fear is to make sure you participate in every meeting you go to – even if it’s only to ask a question. When your boss asks your team who wants to make a presentation to a small group, volunteer! Start with smaller groups and work your way up. Working your way through this fear one step at a time gives you the confidence you need to tame it.

  1. Fear of being fired or laid off

Sometimes the fear of being laid off or fired stems from your own insecurity that you’re not good enough. Or maybe you’re a baby boomer or Gen X employee who’s afraid of ageism. Or you’ve heard office rumblings about a potential layoff in the near future, and you think you could be on the “hit list.”

What can you do to quell your anxiety? Speak to your manager and ask the tough questions like:

  • How am I doing?
  • What do you think of my work product?
  • What can I improve upon?
  • Are there any courses I should take to become better at my job?
  • Would a mentor be helpful?

Employees typically aren’t fired if they are producing excellent work and are team players who get along with their coworkers.

But it’s always a smart idea to keep your resume updated and polished. Try to have a few months’ worth of salary set aside. Connect with recruiters on LinkedIn. Put your resume on some of the more common job-posting sites. Invest in some job skills training through LinkedIn or HubSpot, many of which are free.

  1. Fear of being incompetent

Coined “imposter syndrome,” fear of incompetency is especially prevalent among employees who are women or who have recently risen into leadership roles. They think they are inadequate or that the company made a mistake thinking they were capable of a leadership position.

It takes time to adjust to a new role – particularly a managerial one. There are new skills to learn and many tasks that require some time on the job in order to become proficient in them. Here are some ways to keep imposter syndrome in check:

  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions or to ask for help with unfamiliar tasks.
  • Take some courses to acquire the technical or managerial skills you need.
  • Find a mentor whom you trust and who can give you the pep talks you need to believe in yourself.

Here are some additional tips that might be useful to help you overcome imposter syndrome.

  1. Fear of being stuck or stagnant in your job

This is a fear that affects young people in particular who have been in their first job for a number of years. Maybe they have just become comfortable with what they’re doing because it’s second nature to them. But many of them feel stuck and unmotivated to continue to perform well if they find themselves stuck in the same role for too long. And then in the typical snowball effect, it impedes their ability to be recognized with a promotion or any type of career advancement.

Feeling stuck? You are in control of your own work destiny, so maybe it’s time to update your resume and start looking for a fresh start. Make a plan to gain additional skills, go back to school or take professional development courses. Network with like-minded people in a career you’re interested in on LinkedIn. Get unstuck or move on.

  1. Fear of having to make decisions

Struggling to make a work-related decision is tied to fear of making mistakes and looking like you don’t know what you’re doing. “What if I make a decision and it’s wrong?” But what if it’s right? Making decisions and making mistakes are all part of the learning process, and everyone makes them!

“Decidophobia” as it’s aptly named, is simply an irrational fear that can lead to a full-blown panic attack. It may be accompanied by anxiety and an unhealthy dependence on others to make decisions for you. Or you procrastinate until someone else makes the decision for you.

Sometimes when weighing a decision, it helps to make a list of pros and cons for each choice. This is another situation where a mentor or trusted colleague can help you. A wrong decision isn’t the end of the world – it can actually be an opportunity for growth and gaining confidence in yourself. Forbes has some additional suggestions for tackling decidophobia that you might want to look into.

Fears in the workplace can be debilitating or they can be stepping stones to both personal and professional growth. If necessary, seek the assistance of a professional to help you heal any past trauma that may be responsible for these fears. Don’t settle for second best – you owe it to yourself and your career to be confident and fearless.


Looking for talented employees? Ready to start a new position? We’re AtWork for YOU! Visit AtWork.com/Locations to find an office near you.