How to Overcome Fear at Work: 7 Steps You Can Take
By Indeed Editorial Team
Published 13 April 2022
The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.
Many people sometimes experience feelings of fear at work, including worrying about workplace changes or tight deadlines. Occasional worries and fears are normal, but when fear affects your behaviour at work, it can limit your growth potential. Confronting your fears and processing them in healthy ways can help you feel more confident in the workplace. In this article, we explain how career-based fear can affect you and how to overcome fear at work.
What are career-based fears?
Career-based fears are any concerns that disrupt your patterns of thinking and behaviour relating to work issues. These fears may include:
not applying for jobs you qualify for because of self-doubt
feeling like you aren't fit to hold your position
worrying that you may be fired, reprimanded or demoted
resisting change in the workplace
avoiding tasks you don't excel at
Managing your fears and overcoming them can help you feel more focused at work. This can lead to greater productivity and higher job satisfaction. This can also help you grow personally and professionally. For example, if you're avoiding a certain task because you're afraid you won't succeed, you may overcome this fear by completing the task. During this process, you can ask for help, complete additional training and learn from your mistakes. These steps can help you develop your personal skill set and succeed in your career.
How to overcome fear at work
If you're experiencing work-related worries, it's important to learn how to overcome fear at work. Here are seven steps you can take to begin overcoming your fears:
1. Change your mindset
One step to overcoming fear is to change your mindset from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. Having a growth mindset means believing that talent, skills and intelligence can grow with effort. Having a fixed mindset means believing people have a fixed amount of talent, skills and intelligence, no matter how much effort they put forth. Shifting to a growth mindset increases adaptability and confidence, even when faced with an unfamiliar task or challenge. People with a growth mindset are often highly motivated to take on new opportunities.
They view failure as an opportunity to learn lessons that they can use in the future. To foster a growth mindset, focus on the process rather than the outcome of a situation. Appreciating what you learn from each experience makes both successes and failures more valuable. Next time a task or project doesn't go the way you planned, make a list of things you learned during the process and consider how you can apply those lessons in the future. Shifting to a growth mindset can help you solidify your confidence even in uncertain situations.
2. Reflect on your fears
Another essential step to overcoming your fears at work is to reflect on them. It's important to take the time to think about your thought patterns. When you reflect on how your thoughts on a topic or project develop, you can understand yourself and your approach to problem-solving more deeply. Analysing your thought patterns can help you change the ones that are making you feel fear at work.
Journaling is one common method of reflection. Journaling about your fear of work can help you identify deeper concerns and notice patterns of behaviour and thought that might be holding you back. Talking to other professionals can also provide a way to reflect on your job fears with peers that may have had similar experiences. Exploring these concerns openly can combat the fear that prevents forward motion.
3. Brainstorm solutions
After you've reflected on your fears, you can start to brainstorm potential solutions. Fear of going to work could inhibit your ability to advance professionally, but there are many ways to overcome this feeling. Try becoming solution-focused instead of problem-focused. When working on a solution for a problem, you're actively engaging your mind, rather than passively awaiting an outcome. Becoming an active participant in the outcome of a situation keeps you moving forward, offering a productive outlet for your thoughts and concerns.
Visualise what you feel scared of at work, then make a list of different solutions to fix or prevent the problem. Write the ways each solution would benefit you in the short and long term. Identify the risks of each solution, and mentally rehearse how you would handle those risks. Mental rehearsal is a technique for combating anxiety that has been shown to improve confidence and reduce stress. If you can predict what to expect and how you'll react, you might feel more confident facing the problem.
4. Change your attitude
A positive attitude can keep you motivated as you work towards success. Believing in yourself and your ability to meet your goals can help you realise your desired outcomes. Often, it's much easier to persevere when you believe there may be something worthwhile that comes from your effort, even if the end result isn't ideal. Attitude affects every aspect of working life, from communication to task completion. Shifting your attitude to a more positive outlook may support your success and might help ease work-related fears.
Some professionals may naturally have a more positive outlook, but you can develop this attitude by practising positive thinking. When you experience a setback, focus on what you did well or could improve on in the future. Place improvement in the centre of your thoughts to avoid negative self-talk. Acknowledge your mistakes, but don't allow your mistakes to define how you perceive yourself. A healthy, balanced approach to self-awareness increases confidence in your capabilities and performance at work. It also shows an ability to respond to challenges with objectivity, a valuable leadership trait.
5. Practise self-care
Practising self-care is important to handling work-related fear. Self-care is about prioritising your mental health needs and being kind to yourself. There are many ways to practise self-care, from establishing a regular mindfulness or meditation habit to taking a long walk. Learning when to take a break and focus on your own well-being helps to avoid feelings of overwhelm and burnout.
If self-care is a new practice for you, making time for hobbies, getting together with friends, meditation and saying affirming things to yourself out loud are easy ways to get started. One simple option is to spend a few moments outside. Fresh air provides a great reset, and some professionals find that getting outside for a break may increase their overall productivity.
6. Be proactive
Take charge of your own growth and development by seeking opportunities to learn new skills or develop existing skill sets. Fear of failure can increase stress and prevent growth. Taking ownership of your personal and professional development can prevent fear of failure from taking root.
Invest in yourself by taking a course, working with a mentor or coach, joining a networking group or reading books about personal and professional development. Communicate your professional goals with your supervisors or other team members and look for opportunities to stretch yourself at work. Consider volunteering for tasks that are slightly outside of your comfort zone. This not only gives you the chance to grow but also shows your willingness to take on additional roles and responsibilities. This can help you become more confident and advance your career.
7. Get help if needed
Along with confronting your fears on your own, be sure to ask for help when you need it. For many people, shifting their mindset and putting good habits into place is enough to ease work-related fear. Others may want extra help overcoming their fears. Many people find it helpful to connect with a therapist or a support group to talk about their concerns and learn about solutions.
It can also be helpful to speak with your supervisor or coworkers about what you're experiencing. Other people in your workplace may be able to help you create changes that ease your fears and make you feel more confident at work. You might also consider speaking to a mentor who has experienced similar fears, as they may give you advice that has helped them in the past.
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