Common Employee Fears and How to Fix ThemHelp your team to overcome fear in the workplace

Managing a team comes with a myriad of challenges, one of which comes in the form of fear.

Workplace fears are common and it’s likely that all your employees will experience anxiety at some point in their career.

However, when an employee’s fear starts to take hold, it can lead to underperformance, stress, and can place a significant strain upon their professional relationships.

As few as 7% of people choose to speak to their manager about issues they may be experiencing. Therefore, it is important to have knowledge and understanding about common employee fears, how to overcome them, and thus get the best out of your team.

Here are five common employee fears and what you can do to help fix them.

Fear of asking questions

Many employees, new or old, often have a fear of asking questions. This tends stems from a fear of being judged or from a fear of embarrassment—often when asking a question to which they should already know the answer.

However, questions are vital— they’re how we learn. If an employee suffers from a fear of asking questions, then the consequences could be as minor as a small error on a spreadsheet, or as severe as a fatality.

It’s therefore critical that you help your team to overcome the fear of asking questions.

The fix

A fix can be simply achieved by encouraging as many questions as possible and embodying the ‘no such thing as a silly question’ rule. You can also consider posting an FAQ or ‘cheat sheet’ on an online notice board for all your employees to refer to.

By allowing your staff the freedom to ask about anything they’re unsure of (and never ridiculing them for it) you are promoting a positive workplace culture, boosting morale, empowering your employees, and prioritising knowledge and safety.

Fear of promotion

It’s often presumed that many employees will have a fear of being passed over for a promotion. However, it’s just as common (if not more so) for employees to fear the change that accompanies a promotion.

Plenty of employees will experience feelings of insecurity about their decision to change their job and many will also wonder whether they have made the right decision. This can often lead to a rocky start in a new job and a risk of wasting time and resources.

The fix

Fixing this fear comes in the form of planning. Have regular one-to-one meetings with your staff in which you work through their goals and create a career plan.

Your employees will be able to create and follow their own paths, allowing them to have full control of their professional life. Thus, when the promotion does come along, your employees will feel confident in their decision.

Fear of failure

Many people, both in their professional and personal lives, will experience a fear of failure. In the workplace, a fear of failure is often accompanied by a fear of underperforming as well as a fear of being fired.

New employees are at a risk of fear of failure due to the pressure of living up to any expectations they may have incurred during their interview. Existing employees are also at a risk of failure fear, this time due to an increasing workload or mistakes made outside of their training period.

The fix

Managers should give frequent, reliable, and constructive feedback to their staff. When assigning tasks, managers should also assess whether the employee can handle it alongside their current workload.

By creating an environment rife with clear two-way communication, both staff and managers will know where they stand. This will eliminate any unexpected failure and, as a result, any fear of failure on behalf of employees will be eased.

Fear of confrontation

Confrontation is inevitable within any workplace. Perhaps it’s a customer confronting your front-of-house staff, perhaps it’s a client over the phone, or perhaps it’s a tense colleague.

Fear of confrontation, however, often prevents it from being resolved. Therefore, if confrontation can’t be eliminated from your workplace altogether, it’s prudent that you bestow your staff with the tools and resources to cope with it.

The fix

If conflict is to arise, don’t be afraid to handle it directly. Be tactful and confident that the issue can be resolved and make it clear that any disrespect won’t be tolerated. This will allow your team to fully place their trust in your management skills.

Additionally, providing workshops that enable your employees to practise diffusing friction themselves will give your client-facing staff the tools they need to overcome any conflict in their day-to-day roles.

Fear of the future

In a post-COVID world, many people now suffer with the uncertainty of the future. Within the workplace, many fear that the future could mean losing one’s job. In fact, 30% of people are concerned about their role being replaced by technology in the next three years.

Fear of the future and fear of uncertainty are normal, yet there’s no one way to overcome them.

The fix

You can start by focusing on communication; encouraging employees to voice their fears and not bottle them up. Additionally, you can also encourage your staff to get as involved as possible; if something is worrying them, encourage them to research it. Simply being informed can alleviate fear.

As a manager, you can point your employees in the direction of relevant policies and procedures, incorporate mental health days, and, most importantly, uphold a secure network of positive relationships whereby employees look out for one another.

Normalise fear

It’s human nature to feel fear and, in the workplace, managers have a responsibility to spot these fears and offer support as quickly as possible.

By fostering the fixes above you can not only alleviate your employees’ fears, but you can also normalise the feeling of fear, letting your staff know that they are not alone.

As a result, your team will have a boost in confidence and morale, allowing for an optimistic environment and an overall heightened work experience.

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