Fear: An Introduction

Posted January 22, 2013 by Kristi Royse in On the Ladder
Fear in the workplace

This is the first in a series of blog posts in which we talk about various facets of fear, how it impacts the workplace, and how (and why) we, as women in leadership roles, need to change fear into trust.

What is fear?

We all have different ideas of what fear looks like.

Some people fear taking risks, others fear conflict or confrontation, and still others fear rejection by peers.

I struggle with fear of failure.

I am a perfectionist by nature, as are many of us in the corporate world.

Fear: The Four-Letter Word

The point is, we all have fear in our lives. If we all face fear, though, why isn’t it more readily discussed in the workplace?

Because fear is often viewed as an unmentionable, four-letter word.

Talk of fear is received with feelings of discomfort and disdain. To admit fear is to accept defeat. Society at large views fear as a sign of weakness, and as leaders we are expected to be big, bad, courageous trailblazers.

Overlooking the presence of fear, though, gives it power.  Inability to face our fears allows them to grow and multiply until they paralyze us.

Thus, the first step to ridding ourselves of fear is admitting that it exists. From there, we can begin to understand the fear that holds us hostage and create a plan of action to confront and overcome that fear.

Facing The Uncomfortable

Freedom from fear does not involve changing or avoiding our circumstances. Rather, freedom is found when we face fear-evoking circumstances head on. This confrontation helps to release us from our bondage to fear.

So, then, once fear is acknowledged and identified, you have a choice:

Will I allow my circumstances to define me?

Or am I willing and able to overcome my circumstances?

Choosing faith over fear is a moment-by-moment decision:

Will I choose to face my fears or will I let myself be overcome by them?

Do I have faith enough in my abilities, and belief in what I am pursuing, to overcome my fears?

The answers to these questions define who we are as leaders and team members. When we understand and manage our own fear, we are better equipped to understand fear in our teams and workplaces. From that understanding we can create environments that help to free our employees from fear, and in the process, create high-performance, healthy organizations.

Why does this matter?

Anxiety and fear in the workplace create:

  • high turnover rates
  • loss of honesty, vulnerability, and openness
  • anger as a result of misunderstanding and miscommunication
  • lower levels of creativity
  • lack of concern for the company

The Solution – Learning to trust

Trust has the power to eliminate fear. Trust creates an environment that fosters positive vulnerability among coworkers.

When trust is present, people do not fear they will be rejected as a result of speaking their mind. They are willing to take more risks and push themselves further, knowing they have the support of their coworkers and leaders.

You’ll find that there is a greater commitment to the work at hand and the company as a whole, and that employees are loyal to coworkers, and to the company itself.

Anxiety inhibits, trust relaxes and releases.

When your teams trust you to support them, they can let go of fear, get the job done, and even create and innovate to make your entire organization healthier and more profitable.

In creating and maintaining a trusting environment, we create a more cohesive group of people in the workplace.  Greater cohesion makes for:

  • increased productivity
  • greater efficiency
  • more concern for the company
  • fewer arguments
  • appreciation for new ideas and creative thinking

Read more on trust here

My hope is these suggestions for overcoming fear will help you create more cohesive teams and more effective leadership within your company.

What is your experience either embracing  fear or avoiding it? Do you believe trusting relationships can combat fear? Do you have other ways of handling fear in your life or at the office?

About the Author

Kristi Royse

Kristi believes that leaders create success by inspiring their people to greatness through vision, communication, trust and teamwork, and that female leaders are uniquely positioned to develop this greatness in themselves and others. CEO of KLR Consulting, Kristi is a nationally-recognized speaker, executive coach, facilitator, management consultant, and trainer. Since 1987, Kristi has been coaching executives to be stronger leaders and helping organizations optimize their most vital resource - people.