Article by Susan C. Foster

Fear is a response to physical and emotional danger; it should keep us alert and safe. However, too much fear about perceived threats just causes anxiety and stress. At work, it can stall our careers.

Here are five of the most common fears people have about work and five ways to overcome them:

1. Fear of Not Fitting In

Fear of rejection has been around as long as humans have been on earth. In tribal times, being ejected from the safety of a group could mean death, so this fear is ingrained in us.

Antidote: Listen deeply and stay open.

More than anything, others want to know you listen to their ideas and concerns. You don’t have to contribute to every discussion, but your team will appreciate knowing you will hear them out. Since everyone has different ideas, staying open to hear the experiences of others will add to your own body of knowledge.

2. Fear of Feeling Stuck

We all want to feel we can move up in a company and be rewarded. Knowing it is in our power to influence that will help alleviate this fear.

Antidote: Learn to think two levels up.

Ask yourself: What does my boss’s boss want and need? What is that person’s biggest challenge? How can I make my boss look good in that person’s eyes? What can I contribute in skills, expertise, and results?

3. Fear of Being Disliked

It is a normal, human trait to seek the attention and praise of others. It is when we don’t value ourselves as worthy, able, and good enough that we let this fear take over.

desertAntidote: Refuse to criticize and assume the best.

When you genuinely find something to like in others, they usually respond in kind. Finding the positive in a situation will help bring a different atmosphere to the entire team. Be confident you are a likable person. No matter what, be friendly to everyone. Brigham Young once said, “Why should we worry about what others think of us; do we have more confidence in their opinions than we do our own?”

4. Fear of Inadequacy/Failure

Fear of failure can make us reluctant to get involved or to try new, challenging projects. When it causes us to procrastinate or shy away from new goals, it can lead to the very thing we fear.

Antidote: Clarify expectations and resist perfectionism.

Ask your boss, “What does success look like at the end of this project?” Then decide what feedback you need along the way to ensure you are on track. Remember there is no such thing as perfect. Be willing to try things new things and do them imperfectly. Ask yourself: What did I learn? What could have been done differently if I had perfect knowledge in the beginning?

5. Fear of Being Fired

There are lots of reasons anyone can get fired: the company loses key customers, there are huge shifts in the industry, or new management wants to take the company in a different direction, for example. We can’t always control it, but we can plan for it.

Antidote: Stay aware and prepare.

Keep an open dialogue with your peers and boss. Know the industry and where your company fits in that market. How is it doing in terms of finances, key customers, and likely changes? Without complaining, ask your boss what you can do to help alleviate workload and make progress with projects and goals. Most of all, keep a list of your own accomplishments so you can not only articulate them, but also use them if you suddenly need to update your resume.

A version of this article originally appeared on

Susan C. Foster is a former executive 24/7 workaholic who now coaches executives and careerists. She is a Master Coach, writer, and the author of It’s Not Rocket Science: Leading, Inspiring, and Motivating Your Team to Be Their Best.

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