Fear is a primal emotion that has characterised human nature from the very dawn of evolution. It is a basic yet crucial emotion that is important to survival, triggering a response designed to keep us safe from threats and dangers. In this respect, it is fair to say that it is a valuable sentiment to experience from time to time, as it guarantees we are as secure as can be in specific circumstances.
However, problems arise when fear becomes a constant burden. This is particularly true if it happens in the workplace. Fear can instil sentiments of stress and anxiety, accounting for up to 60% of work absences during the year and costing companies an average of £666 per worker. Not only that, but it can also affect the efficiency and productivity of the business on the whole.
Hence, it is important for leaders to find ways to help employees overcome fear in the workplace. Here, we explore how business owners and managers can support fearful team members by building a braver, healthier environment.
Show empathy and build trust
One of the most important responsibilities of a business owner or manager is to establish a relationship of trust with your employees. Indeed, trust is the gateway to teamwork, collaboration, and high morale, acting as a powerful tool for decreasing feelings of fear and stress.
When your team lacks trust, they are likely to live in constant anxiety. When people feel they can’t allow themselves to be vulnerable, they may end up concealing their worries rather than speaking up and asking for much-needed help.
To build a sentiment of trust within the workplace and nurture team development, it is crucial to demonstrate empathy and emotional intelligence. Remind your employees that you are there to provide support and assist them along the way. Point out that anyone can have a bad day or experience moments of uncertainty. Also, be honest and transparent and consider letting them know from time to time if you are feeling worried or scared too. This is likely to create a stronger connection and, ultimately, high levels of trust.
Let’s not beat around the bush: from CEO to apprentice level, everyone is bound to have reservations around some specific aspect of their job. Some may feel uncomfortable giving a presentation in front of their colleagues, while others may be pressurised by urgent, last-minute tasks.
Sharing that everybody has their own worries can help decrease the intensity of fear within your team. In fact, it normalises the experience and makes your people realise that they are not alone. Moreover, you may want to encourage them to recognise sentiments of fear as part of the process, while also highlighting that they are only temporary.
Incite your staff to speak to fellow co-workers and supervisors, and allow them to have an open discussion about how they have conquered fears in their professional careers. This will boost your team’s confidence and help them move forward.
Create vision and make your intentions clear
Another good way to limit feelings of fear in the workplace is to set a solid organisational vision and offer clear instructions when needed. In fact, some employees may experience increased sentiments of stress and anxiety if they do not know what is expected from them. By defining the end goal and their role in that, and by providing workers with the right instruments, business owners and managers can effectively nip this problem in the bud.
Not only that but, in certain circumstances, it could be wise to explain the reasoning behind your decision-making to your team. For instance, if you are hiring a candidate for a new role, some team members may worry about how the change will affect them. Some people may be concerned that it’s because they are not performing well enough, which may therefore knock their confidence.
Hence, outlining your intentions can prevent sentiments of fear from the outset. What’s more, your employees will be more likely to support and understand the decisions you make.
React amicably to news and disagreements
There may be certain instances in which, however, your team will not agree with the actions you take to tackle a problem. If this happens, make sure you don’t shrug off your employee’s opinion or react negatively. Firstly, this might lead to narrow-minded and short-sighted decisions. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, your team may be less likely to disclose any issues or uncertainties they may have in the future. This is because they may be afraid of receiving an abrupt response.
Likewise, if your workers come to you with negative news, make sure to stay lucid. Things don’t always go to plan and there will often be options you can try to improve the situation. By embracing the right attitude and thanking your employee for informing you promptly, you can nurture a positive environment that leaves no room for fear.
It is only normal to experience fear and worry from time to time. However, workplaces should be made welcoming and collaborative to truly drive productivity and efficiency.
From building relationships of trust and normalising stress to making your intentions clear and allowing for disagreements, there are many steps you can take as an owner or manager to limit sentiments of fear within your company.
About the Author
Dominic Fitch is the Head of Creative Change at Impact International. He is passionate about experiential learning and learning through play. He also enjoys inspiring groups to better themselves, to collaborate and share skills, to be ambitious for each other and those around them. Dominic also has extensive experience working in the cultural, education and corporate sectors. He is also an award winning theatre maker who has directed shows for the Queen, the Prime Minister and West End audiences.