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How to deal with fear at work

I recently participated in a leadership retreat with 20 leaders from small and medium organizations. At some point during the first day, the question of whether to lead with fear became a topic of discussion. The reaction was unanimous:leading with fear is wrong, and fear has no place in the workplace.
The next day a different discussion took place, this time about constructive feedback and sharing news difficult with team members. Most leaders described the apprehension they felt during these conversations and the stress they felt during these conversations. There were many discussions about aggressive, inflexible, or authoritative team members.
These leaders, who a day earlier had spoken out about fear in the workplace, were scared.
Related: 5 Ways to Overcome Your Most Common Fears About Work
Fear-based leadership doesn't have to be an aspiration. But don't convince yourself that fear doesn't live in your organization. And don't believe that fear can be eliminated. You can minimize it, but it will never go away. Instead, it takes on different forms and lies in the shadows.
Your job is to know where fear lives and what to do when it emerges.
Recognize fear as a signal.
/>Based on feedback during the retreat, there was a general reluctance to push team members who constantly pushed them away. Leaders are often afraid of being seen as inflexible or not open to new ideas. They are hesitant to stand firm with equal strength, even if the people pushing are on questionable footing.
You need to give your team members a voice, but that's not your only job. You also need to determine if their points are valid. If you have a good idea of ​​how your organization should work and what they're advocating isn't a good idea, you can't be afraid to keep your position.
That's why those times of conflict are important. They communicate what you stand for. These are the times when you need to take responsibility for helping them understand why their views don't align with yours. The fear of conflict is not something to be eliminated. Instead, acknowledge that feeling for what it is – a signal that guides you to the conversation you need.
Displace fear.
Fear is often discussed in the context of top-down leadership – angry, dictatorial, condescending, etc. In most work environments, however, you're just as likely to find examples of team members behaving the same way. And when they do, their colleagues note how it's handled. Some leaders fail to confront bad behavior because of misinterpretation of leadership from servants. They are afraid to use their structural power. But if they don't, they will soon see a negative effect on the team and the culture.
If this description fits you, understand that structural power allows you to displace fear, and sometimes that is necessary . Remember that you shouldn't be afraid. The person exhibiting bad behavior must be afraid. Transfer the fear by telling them what the repercussions are if their behavior continues. Be direct, precise and do not mince your words. This should be done in private, but behavior change will be seen in public. It is not a new respect for the organization that will change their behavior. It transfers the fear from you to them.
Related: Why you should look your fears in the eye and smile
Share your fears.
Some leaders are afraid of upsetting their team members. Others are afraid to show the slightest weakness. To hide imperfections or concerns, these leaders pretend to be fearless. They project the image they all know, believing people will follow them.
It's problematic when leaders don't share their fears with their followers. When leaders don't recognize they need help, no one helps them. As a result, they feel isolated and misunderstood. This compounds the problem because eventually every leader stumbles. When they do, they will not only struggle to deal with the consequences, their team will not understand them or what caused the problem.
Perfection does not exist and everyone knows it. If you're trying to portray perfect leadership, your team won't fully believe in you. Don't be afraid to show imperfection. It will help people see themselves in you and understand what you are up against. This in turn attracts people to you. Leadership despite imperfection is a marvel that gains many more followers than feigned perfection.
Facing fear together.
There is powerful, silent fear that lives between peers. It remains hidden, but all you have to do is mention “peer feedback” to raise the anxiety levels of anyone within earshot. Suddenly fear was born.
Most people appreciate feedback, but they also know that relationships are important. To keep the peace, co-workers either avoid giving each other feedback or just focus on positive feedback – neither of which leads to improvement. Your job is to teach them that constructive feedback may not feel good, but is good.
Model how to receive feedback effectively by having your team give you feedback in groups. Take this opportunity to show how to listen, absorb and adjust. Make feedback a normal part of any process in which employees collaborate, not just performance reviews. If you have the ability, provide feedback training to your team. Giving feedback is difficult. This fear does not need to disappear completely. Teach your team that peer feedback is proof that a colleague is ready to face a fear for them. It will strengthen their relationships and the individuals on either side.
Fear is no different emotion than sadness, joy, or anger. Unless you want to completely rid your organization of feelings, don't assume you can rid it of fear. Too often, leaders try to free their environment of fear and simply absorb it themselves. Too often, leaders deny its existence and then are surprised at the fruit it bears. Your job is not to absorb fear, eliminate it, or develop it. Your job is to know the places from which fear is likely to emerge. Your job is to recognize its purpose. And when fear strikes, your work must be prepared.
Related: How to confront your fear-based thoughts