What Scares Workers The Most?

By Sonia Acosta

Have you ever had that nightmare where you are in a rush to get to an important meeting at work, but you can't seem to get out the door no matter how hard you try? First, you can't find your keys. Then you realize you walked out with two different pairs of shoes on. Finally, you think you're set, and suddenly your on-the-go breakfast is now an on-your-shirt meal, and it just goes on and on. Then you wake up more confused and agitated than one of the Jersey Housewives.

We all like to think of ourselves as confident, savvy, optimistic workers. The truth is, regardless of your age, profession or position; we all have the occasional deep-rooted, teeth-grinding fear when it comes to work. To find out what's causing your professional white knuckling, we asked job seekers following our Twitter and Facebook accounts to share their fears with us. Here's what we found:

1. Being found out

Ruth Mott, an executive coach and owner of Mott Consulting in Chicago, Ill., says, "The most common fear I hear from my clients is that they will be 'found out.' Somehow, someone will find out that they are really a fake, masquerading as a savvy professional."

This fear, explains Mott, sometimes keeps capable workers from going for the next level job, or even to the next meeting. "They undervalue their experience, their intelligence, and their ambition." Believing that luck, and not skill, got them to where they are professionally, they are stunted from moving forward confidently.

2. Being less than perfect

Jeffrey Milano, CEO of ThePeoplesChemist.com, says, "As a consultant in a variety of businesses, my biggest fear was that I wouldn't know how to handle a situation thrown at me and end up making a very expensive mistake by taking an educated shot in the dark."

The interesting thing, Milano explains, is that business' biggest problem is often not in the wrong decision, but in indecision. "Too many companies and professionals are stuck in indecision. The ones that actually make the wrong moves are few and obvious."

3. Motherhood on the job

Another common fear is the delicate balance between motherhood and career. Bronagh Hanley, an entertainment publicist based out of San Francisco, Calif. and owner of Big Noise PR, says, "It is hard to juggle everything, and sitting in the copy room with the door locked while you are pumping breast milk definitely undermines your status to colleagues whether they say it or not. Figuring out the balance, maintaining the workload, retaining your dignity, and garnering respect is a tall order."

4. E-mistakes

"I love humor in the workplace so it's easy to let my guard down and send a quick email, and fear later it might have gotten into the wrong hands; CEO aka Mr. Stinky Breathe. Fail." – Darin A.

We know it's tempting to bash your sometimes less than pleasant co-workers or management team, but if you enjoy employment, and in this economy, we imagine you do very much, we beg you to always air on the side of caution. Never put any insults in writing. Remember that employers have the right to review any communication carried out through their devices, including e-mail. If you just have to get it out for fear of spontaneous combustion, do it during lunch or after work at an offsite location.

5. Professional boredom

"Taking too few chances and ending up with a static career." – Evelyn E.

Yes, the economy is tough, but it is not impossible. If you are unhappy in your current company or position, do something about it. Never leave your current job until you have something else lined up, unless you're rich of course, but be aggressive in your search for greener pastures. Do not settle and end up wasting 10 years in a place where you are not being fulfilled, your skills are not being utilized to their highest potential, and your ambition is undergoing a slow, torturous death.

Many employers, especially in this economy, might tell you, whether directly or not in so many words, to suck it up and be thankful for the job you have. You can be thankful, but that doesn't mean you have to stay there indefinitely. Take risks, albeit carefully planned, calculated ones, and leave the fear of a static or unfulfilling career behind.

6. Being ostracized

"That everyone despises me because I actually get along with the boss." – Dawn W.

Getting along with your boss is key to being successful in any position. More than that, it is the only way to stay sane at work. If you are lucky enough to get along well with the boss, embrace it. Teach other employees how to best work with him or her, since you've got it mastered, so that they can enjoy a healthy employee-boss relationship too, and leave their hating days behind.

7. Losing skills

"Becoming outdated while being unemployed." – John M.

This is an all too common and unfortunate fear in today's job market, but there are ways to beat it. Volunteer, take a class, start a professional blog, or take on contract/temporary work, and network, network, network. The point is to stay active, learning, contributing to something, and connected to your industry.

Also take the time to read through news and blogs related to your field throughout the week. This way, when you do get an interview, it is obvious to the employer that you are up-to-date, and have made an effort to stay relevant and busy during unemployment.

8. Embarrassment

"Besides walking late into a meeting with toilet paper hanging from the back of my skirt, anything else can be fixed and/or forgotten." Debbie C.

Now this is true optimism. A positive attitude is a crucial business asset. More than smarts and skills, a positive attitude will always make you more successful at work and in life. It allows you to be a better problem solver, results driver, employee and person.

More professional fears

The employment heebie-jeebies don't stop there. Some worker worries are funny, while others are serious concerns facing many job seekers and workers in today's tug-of-war economy. The list goes on and on. Here is just a small sampling of other worries keeping workers up at night.

  • "Being on a career path to nowhere." – @NaturalNia
  • "Resisting the overwhelming urge to roundhouse the crude, loud, obnoxious, coworker sitting in the cubicle next to me." – James G.
  • "Forgetting how to balance what I love to do and my life in general." – Jazmin C.
  • "Not getting enough training or skills." – Cheryl B.
  • "Mouthing off to my boss because I'm having a bad day." – Billy H.
  • "That I go back to school, finish my degree, and still can't get a job that will pay the bills and student loans." – Rachel S.
  • "Posting something goofy on Facebook and having a future employer read it." – Charles T.
  • "To be interviewed by an idiot." – Sean A.
  • "That I can't get others on board to make systematic change." – Sofia S.

Are there any others we missed?

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