The instant you react in fear to any negative and adverse workplace event, you have lost the game! “Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.” –Yoda
The moment you experience fear in the workplace, pause and just smile. The physical movement of your facial muscles when smiling will cause your brain to stop thinking of self defense and start to calm you down. (Source) Then breathe deeply and slowly. Your opponent will look at you quizzically and wonder what the joke is or whether she said something funny. Ok, you are now back to center and can think with a cool head. This is what I did a few years back when my case was called for oral argument during a court of appeals case. The trick really works. Fear happens to all of us. It is a natural human emotion, and the emotion should be recognized for what it is worth, to protect you; then put fear in its proper perspective”on the sideline and behind you.
You have choices about fear and only you can decide which path to take. Would you rather take the map route that is longer by several hours or a short five minute trip to your destination? Fear acts like a weight on your forward momentum and the ballast must be removed immediately whenever you sense it. But maybe you are having trouble releasing fear, even though you have heard this advice before. Fear is just an idea or thought generated in your brain in reaction to an adverse event. If you can feel and think fear, you can also forget it just as fast. But how? Well, the pause mentioned above is the start of the process and the second step is to tell yourself, even write it down, that the very present thought of fear can easily be replaced by the thought that you are not in fear. You can unthink the thought of fear and it takes practice. You are going to stumble a few times but eventually you will harness control over fear; be patient. Say to yourself, fear is just a thought, I do not believe in fear.
When you are confronted with an uncomfortable situation at work try to be present and hunt for the first sign of fear and then squash it. As the work situation grows worse, obviously escalate your intention to reduce and eliminate fear. Doing this will immediately help you find a calmer approach and prevent you from saying something you will regret or that will further add negative value to the situation.
When you get over the hump of fear, your intentions will quickly shift to how you can leverage this work situation to your advantage. This positive momentum will enhance your feelings of self-worth and confidence. Your fellow employees and managers will instantly pick up on this vibe and give you the runway to listen to your position or argument, even though they are still acting adverse to you. This is how successful employees and executives handle fear at work. Yes, it may sound simple, but this is the trick you must keep in your tool chest while working. If you keep applying this technique, you may be promoted and eventually become a great leader.
If you would like further information about dealing with fear at work, stay tuned to this employment law blog. We will be publishing a series of upcoming articles discussing fear in the workplace and how you can successfully handle fear while facing specific work situations.