How to face your biggest workplace fears

Portrait of stressed out businesswoman biting nails
Portrait of stressed out businesswoman biting nails

We all have our private fears at work - but some of us are more susceptible to them than others. Indeed, for many, they're a major factor in our lives.

A new survey carried out by job site CV-Library has found that more than a quarter of workers admit actually choosing their career path on the basis of being able to avoid those workplace fears.

"While it's discouraging to see that so many workers are closing themselves off to career opportunities as a result of their fears, it is positive to see that many are choosing to face their worries confidently," says Lee Biggins, founder and managing director of CV-Library.

"January is the perfect time for the nation's professionals to overcome their anxieties. We urge workers to face their career fears and open themselves up to a host of new career possibilities in 2016."

When asked about the best ways to address workplace fears, more than half of workers thought that training and managerial support would help most.

"Many workers would massively benefit from extra support from their employer," says Biggins. "Businesses can help their staff address and overcome their anxieties by providing additional training and mentoring programmes."

The fact is that most common workplace fears can be overcome with the right techniques. So what are the UK's biggest workplace terrors - and how do the experts suggest you handle them?

Performing in public frightens most of us, with more than 35% of the CV-Library sample saying they feared public speaking, presenting or leading meetings. Nearly one in twenty are frightened of liaising with senior staff, and another six percent are even scared of social occasions.

"It's rare to find someone who actually enjoys public speaking and presenting in meetings – so don't worry if the thought of this brings you out in cold sweats," says CV-Library's Sarah Hannah.

"What you should remember is that your colleagues will want to see you do well, so while you might be squirming when all eyes are on you, you should take a breath and go for it. If all else fails, there's always the old imagining-everyone-in-their-underwear trick!"

And, adds Steve Thompson, MD at Forward Role Recruitment, eventually familiarity will breed contempt.

"The only way to overcome that fear is to force yourself to do as much public speaking as you can," he says. "The idea being that each time you do it, you get a little more confident."
Communication's almost as scary over the phone, it seems, with 11.5% of people dreading cold calling, and another 6.4% afraid of making any calls at all.

"Perhaps the most frightening aspect in this entire call reluctance scenario is that most sales professionals believe they are alone," says Tammy Stanley, director of sales training firm The Sales Refinery.

"They wouldn't dare speak about their fear of cold calling or about all the reasons they postpone making sales calls because they think they are the only ones doing that."

The trick, she says, is not to procrastinate, but to get calls over with immediately.

"Waiting for a better time usually results in one of two things - never finding the right time to call that prospect, or waiting so long that by the time the call is finally placed, the prospect is already doing business with someone else and no longer requires the suggested product," she says.

Missing targets is the biggest fear for 6.7% of people in the CV-Library survey. But, says Sean McPheat, managing director of MTD Sales Training, "Don't fall into the trap of thinking that you're in a slump when you're not. Sometimes it's just the simple law of averages catching up with you."

He adds: "By focusing too much on what is going wrong, you will simply attract more of it. Don't allow it to become the be all and end all of your days. Remember that it is simply a phase you're going through. You will see the light at the end of the tunnel."

Managing budgets is scary for 5.7%; but here's one place where staff really should be able to expect advice and support from above.

Finally, according to the Calm Clinic, fear of being away from home can boil down to a fear of flying, a desire for home comforts or an over-emphasis on horror stories reported on the news. The best thing to do is face your fears head on, it suggests - good advice for all workplace terrors.

The top ten workplace fears (source: CV-Library)
Public speaking – 15.7%
Presenting – 12.2%
Cold calling – 11.5%
Leading a meeting – 7.3%
Missing targets - 6.7%
Speaking on the phone – 6.4%
Attending social events – 6%
Managing budgets – 5.7%
Liaising with senior staff – 4.8%
Being away from home – 3.4%

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