Is the fear of letting go holding you back?

During a period of Apple's history when layoffs were a frequent occurrence, my greatest fear was being let go. I knew of employees who, after being given the pink slip and exit package, were escorted to their office to collect their belongings and then walked out of the building. As an immigrant product designer, this was my greatest fear. It took 23 years before I was escorted out the building with my box of things. This is a stupidly long time to be worrying about something!

Here’s the problem with fear. When our actions stem from fear and we fear being let go, or fear receiving a negative performance review, or fear conflict at work, or fear public speaking, we are only delaying the inevitable and our fear becoming a reality. Why?

Because where intention goes, energy flows

Are you in a job where the tasks you perform are driven by fear? Sadly, the energy you commit to fear, rather than joy, is working against you. If your heart's not in your work because you’re afraid, you won’t be happy, feel creative, or become fulfilled. It's biological. We cannot hold two emotions at the same time. “Both feelings constitute your emotional reality but can’t be felt, or experienced, to the same degree simultaneously.” according to author and psychologist, Leon F Seltzer Ph.D.

One way to overcome fear is to take a realistic look at what will happen if your greatest fear comes true. Take a peek from a safe place at the absolutely worst case scenario, and ask yourself, does the reality of the situation justify your fear? You may see that even if the worst thing did happen, it may not be as terrible as you imagine.

Is being laid off, making errors on the job, dealing with difficult customers, speaking in front of customers, having conflict with coworkers or with your boss, or receiving a bad performance review so terrible?

If it does happen, it may point to a change that needs to occur, or it may point to an even greater fear hidden from your view.

Being escorted out the door was awkward for the people in the office who witnessed my departure that Friday afternoon. It was a unique experience, where someone cried and it wasn’t me. What I could not have anticipated was how devastated I felt about losing my work family, specifically the design teams I led.

What is your greatest fear at work?

Here's a list of some of the big ones:

  • Being laid off or fired

  • Making errors on the job

  • Dealing with difficult customers or clients

  • Speaking in front of a group of people

  • Conflicts with coworkers

  • Conflicts with your manager

  • Receiving a bad performance review

  • Something else….

Have you faced one of these fears?

Have your feelings about the fear limited your ability to advance your career?

How did you overcome it?

Photo by Farrel Nobel on Unsplash