Fear is not productive

Fear.  We all feel it.  We are not weak due to our fear.  However, making fear-based decisions in the workplace has impacts we’d rather not realize.


In this video, Dr. Melissa Gratias discusses the outcomes of fear and the only three choices we can make.


Don’t want to watch the video?  A transcript is below.








Hi this is Dr. Melissa Gratias, and I am a productivity specialist. I help overworked and overwhelmed people feel focused, balanced, and successful.


Today, I am talking about FEAR! Fear is not productive.


I’ll start out with reading a testimonial from one of my clients that illustrates the point. Here’s what she said:


I really enjoyed our session, I really learned a lot. I am also fighting my fears of deleting emails that I have replied to that are not business records. I am getting over the fear of maybe needing the emails in the future.


Then she goes into specifics of what she learned in coaching. This person is the supervisor of a very busy call center. Twice, she used the word fear.


I was called in to help this call center supervisor because of an overwhelming amount of email. She was not as responsive as she needed to be. She was not processing it appropriately, and she was in violation of her company’s records management policies. It was causing her tremendous amounts of stress. So, getting over those fears was very, very significant for her.


Let’s think more about the impacts of fear.


What are the impacts of fear-based decision-making in the workplace?


The first one:  fear makes you not start things.


  • I’m afraid of spending too much time on this
  • I’m afraid of what the outcome is going to be
  • I’m afraid that it’s not going be perfect


Fear makes you not start things that can really be excellent for you, your career, and your employer. So, one of the impacts of fear is failure to start.



The second impact of fear is failure to finish.


We don’t finish things because we fear it’s not perfect.


Or, we fear the unknown.  That…

  • Once the project is over we don’t really know what we’re going to do
  • We don’t know what what’s going to happen next
  • We’re not going to be in a good place after we finish the project


So, we just don’t finish. We let it go on and on and on and on and on until it’s “perfect,” right? Right? Wrong!



The third thing that the fear-based the decision-making can impact is that we end up keeping too much information.


That was one of the issues with the call center supervisor. She had tens of thousands of emails that she was keeping out of fear.


She wasn’t being efficient and effective with her email. Bad things were happening to her personally and professionally as a result of the email situation that she was in. And, it was fear-based.



Fourth, we drop everything to do a task that we are afraid we’ll forget to do later.


Imagine you’re checking your email, and in one message, someone asks you to do something. You may think, “If I don’t drop everything and do this right now, I’m afraid that I won’t remember to do it later.”


So, whether or not it’s a high priority item, our fear propels us to drop everything and work on the task. We’re afraid we’ll forget about it later. That’s another maladaptive fear-based response in the workplace.



Lastly, fear can cause interruptions.


Frequent interrupters (I call them “frequent fliers”) are constantly going to their supervisors and managers saying, “Got a minute?”


These people are often operating out of fear:

  • That they’re making the wrong decisions
  • That they’re stepping out of line
  • That they’re overstepping their authority


So, interruptions are often caused by scared people who are looking for reassurance. If you address the fears that they’re having, you can often reduce your interruptions quite profoundly.



So, what can you do if you saw yourself in any of those five scenarios?



Option one (and this is something I tell my coaching clients all the time) is to change nothing. Everything must be weighed against that option, because changing things can be disruptive. So, you’ve got to weigh the cost of the disruption over the benefit of the change. So, option one is to change nothing, continue operating out of fear, just say “That’s the way it is.”


But, if you’re still watching this video, you probably don’t want option one.


Option two is just to plow forward in spite of your fears. This may be the right thing to do if your fears are unfounded – if your fears are more “worst-case scenario” rather than based in logic and reason.


So, you can plow forward in spite of your fears, get the job done, and push past them.  Usually you can do that after you ask yourself, “What is really the worst thing that could happen here? What am I afraid of?” When you decide that it’s not something to be afraid of, you can plow forward.


The third option is to solve whatever the real problems are that you’re afraid of.


So, in option two (plow forward), the problems aren’t “real.”  In option three, the problems are legitimate. There is a reason to be afraid of them, and we attack those problems head-on so that we are less afraid.


Once addressed, we have to then start trusting that these problems will not recur. Oftentimes, that involves trusting people who may have behaved in a way that caused fear in us in the past.


This is not an instantaneous process. It happens over time, and it’s something that I help clients work through in coaching.


To illustrate this, I’ll give you one more testimonial from a partner at a tax accounting firm:


I just finished tax season and wanted to let you know how much you helped me.  I just received about three to four emails for post-tax season work. 


So, think about it, he was in the middle of his busiest season, and he received several emails for work that could be done afterwards. Before working with me, he would have dropped his urgent tax season work to do these four things because he was afraid he would forget about him later. But here’s what happened…


It was so easy to add them to my task list with a due date and reminder.  No need to worry that I’ve forgotten something.  It’s all there.  Thank you.


So, there are things that you can do to alleviate your fear at work.


In general, operating from a basis of fear in the workplace, is not going to help you be as productive (or as happy) as you may want to be in your job.


If you’re tired of working in a fearful way at work, please reach out to me. If you like my videos, you will love coaching. Coaching is a place where we tackle your fears and find good solutions for them.


Contact me and we can schedule a phone call to discuss your fears and find out if coaching is the right thing for you. There’s no cost or obligation to you with this phone call, I just want to talk to you about your situation, and maybe we’ll decide to work together.


This is Dr. Melissa Gratias, productivity specialist. Thank you so much for watching!


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Dr. Melissa GratiasMelissa Gratias (pronounced “Gracious”) used to think that productivity was a result of working long hours. And, she worked a lot of hours. Then, she learned that productivity is a skill set, not a personality trait. Now, Melissa is a productivity expert who coaches and trains other businesspeople to be more focused, balanced, and effective. She is a prolific writer and speaker who travels the world helping people change how they work and improve how they live. Contact her at getproductive@melissagratias.com or 912-417-2505. Sign up to receive her productivity tips via email.


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