It seems normal to fear losing your job. Plus, budget cuts, hiring freezes, revised job descriptions and getting a new boss can all be unnerving. Ask anyone working at Ford or GM
Other changes can be sources of fear, such as fear of failure in new responsibilities, fear of looking obtuse, fear of an alcoholic coworker, fear of the unknown and fear of success.
But they don’t have to be. Fear can be a great motivator. But more often than not, fear is an inhibitor and a stress factor.
Are you obsessing about change at work? You’re apprehensive and can’t seem to let go?
You’re asking yourself, “What am I doing wrong?” Certainly, you’re not alone.
There are a couple of applicable acronyms to consider: 1. FEAR (frantic effort to avoid responsibility). 2. FEAR (false evidence appearing real).
Regarding the first acronym, remember you are procrastinating — you have a responsibility to yourself to be happy, healthy and productive instead of obsessing about potential changes. As for the second acronym, it’s helpful to remember that things aren’t always as they seem.
For both situations, Mahatma Gandhi provided the best advice: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Still not convinced? Not to be harsh, but Winston Churchill was blunt: “A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.” Oops!
Frankly, if you can’t stop obsessing, you have control issues. Habitual thoughts and behavior can be deadly to your career.
You can’t change other people, and you can’t control events. History provides countless examples. So it’s up to you. Unless you make the necessary changes, you’re giving away your personal power.
“A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.”
But how can you shed your fears at work?
Understand that change is constant. It’s not necessarily harmful, even if it appears so. But it often means learning how to be objective in viewing your situation and expanding your comfort zone.
Tips for managing your fear of change:
1. Recognize the change
Acknowledge your fears. Write them down. Meantime, if your feelings are hurt, don’t let it show.
As Abraham Lincoln once said, “Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
2. Accept your fear
You don’t have to be religious to implement and recite the thoughts from Reinhold Niebuhr’s famous meditative thought: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
3. Use your support system
Remember you’re not terminally unique – you’re not the only person in the world facing change at work. Reach out to a mentor, trusted confidante and domestic partner (supportive spouses help in work-related stress).
4. In your off-hours, budget time to analyze your situation
Quit imagining worst-case scenarios. Instead, focusing on anticipated problems, consider the bright side and solutions. Don’t let it affect your work.
5. Stop asking yourself, “What if…” questions
What if my new boss doesn’t like me? What if my work isn’t appreciated? What if management doesn’t listen to me? What if I lose an important client?
Instead, be focused on productive thoughts and just do your work. Another positive action step to take when you’re ready, invite your boss or client to lunch (and make sure you’re up-to-speed on dining etiquette with your boss or anchor client.
6. Look for ways to communicate
Don’t give away your power by succumbing to a rumor mill or water cooler gossip. Study how to improve communication with others.
Bosses have often complained to me that their employees don’t take the time to learn the company’s vision for growth, they don’t have enough “soft skills,” and they don’t know how to write competently. (As for writing skills, see the 25 best practices for better business writing.)
“This is just a temporary situation. Remember, no matter what, there are no big deals – no matter what.”
7. Train yourself to be optimistic
Prior to becoming a consultant I was once laid off as a young executive and I was apprehensive so I called my wise, compassionate mentor. I explained my fears and asked him for “pearls of wisdom,” but he started laughing.
Then he said: “This is just a temporary situation. Remember, no matter what, there are no big deals – no matter what.”
Indeed, I soon resumed my optimism and career, and later became a business-performance consultant. Optimism can help you climb the corporate ladder.
As for his laughing, I later realized how healthy he really was. He wasn’t laughing at me. He was a role model. He would often laugh at situations to keep them in perspective before deciding on a course of action.
8. Consider your past lessons
Remember how you successfully handled an episode earlier in your career that has actually prepared you for your current demise. You have the capacity to deal with this.
9. Practice the Principle of Contrary Action
Whether you’re performing your responsibilities at work or running errands on the weekend, do them differently each time. You’ll improve your potential to keep an open mind.
You’ll become more flexible and succeed in new challenges. Your boss will notice, and you’ll feel terrific.
10. Quit fighting change – manage it
Volunteer to help be a catalyst in implementing the required change. Succeed by learning how to manage your boss for better performance. You’ll lose your fear.
11. Alleviate your stress
Learn meditation techniques. Use them regularly as preventative measures. Or recite Reinhold Niebuhr’s serenity mantra.
If you start stressing at work, use them in a private place at the company or in your office, your car or the restroom – anywhere you can be alone. Millions of people have used it with great success. (A popular topic on this portal: The 24 tips to reduce stress, and work happier for top performance.)
In your off-hours: Meditate at home, spend quality time with your family and friends, delve into your hobbies and exercise. Do volunteer work or look around for someone less fortunate.
Anonymously give them assistance with time or money. Or at least, don’t publicize it.
12. Become a go-to person
Analyze your strengths and weaknesses. Set goals for improvement and hone your strengths. Determine what your employer needs, and how you can help.
You’ll provide more value – even better, you’ll enjoy your enhanced value and become more confident. If you’re ambitious for a promotion, learn how to unlock your potential as a leader.
13. Keep on smilin’ and truckin’
If a situation hasn’t been resolved, don’t panic. Some issues simply take time. Keep working and stay focused on using all of these techniques.
Soon, you’ll be wondering how to ask your boss for a pay raise.
From the Coach’s Corner, additional resource tips on managing change:
- How Women Can Enhance Their Careers via Group Decision-Making
- 6 Tips for Baby Boomers to Cope with a Younger Boss
- A Book That Will Improve Your Life, Business and Community
- Dos and Don’ts: How to Advance Your Career via Your Boss’s Boss
When I’m finally holding all the cards, why does everyone decide to play chess?