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Gain freedom from these common workplace fears

The office is like your second home; most of us spend 50% of our total waking hours during any given day at work. But it doesn’t seem so home-like when workplace anxiety and fears start gnawing at us.

Jonathan Berent, psychotherapist and co-author of Work Makes Me Nervous, believes that some level of workplace anxiety is normal, but it “becomes a problem when it results in obsessive worrying or avoidance.”

If workplace anxieties and fears control you, it could affect your career and mental wellbeing. “Most people who work experience it due to the reality of ongoing and an ever-evolving pressure for performance and productivity,” Berent says.

Here’s a look at how you can get rid of some common workplace fears that may be holding you back from achieving your professional goals:

Fear of public speaking

According to popular opinion, the average person ranks fear of public speaking higher than the fear of death. It tends to bring on palpitations, cold sweats, clammy hands and an extremely uncomfortable demeanor. It’s the one fear every professional needs to face up to repeatedly — it could be while making a presentation before seniors, chatting with clients on con calls or sharing opinions with colleagues.

How to overcome it:

• Prepare mentally from the instant you know you need to present to an audience.
• Organize your materials and thoughts to stay relaxed.
• Ensure that the words you use are simple and your sentences short.
• Include your own experiences to impart information and make your speech/presentation heartfelt.
• Make time to practice and watch yourself in the mirror to see how you appear to others. Pay attention to body language, including gestures, movements and facial expressions.
• Record yourself to learn how to modulate and use your voice.
• Try deep breathing before and during your presentation to calm your nerves and give power to your voice.

Fear of Networking

Be it insider information, a new job opportunity or bringing in business for your company, networking is the way ahead. Madeline Bell, president and CEO of The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, runs Heels of Success, a career mentorship blog. On it, she writes: “These days, it’s not enough to keep your head down and produce A-plus work. You need to connect with others, be vocal about your interests and career goals, and build relationships with people you might not otherwise have met.” Yet many of us tend to back into a corner and wonder what to do at a conference, roundtable or career fair.

How to overcome it:
• Do your homework. Find out who’ll be attending so you can focus on the people you’d most like to meet.
• Set yourself one or two realistic goals – meeting a specific person or learning about a product – so you can network in a targeted way.
• Arrive early so that you can settle in before you work the room. Walking in when groups have formed won’t help your cause.
• Try a few pre-prepared, open-ended questions once you’re past the introductions. Make sure you’re ready with your information too.
• Build yourself up, but also focus on listening – this ability is common to all good networkers.
• Maintain an open body posture, look relaxed and warm, make eye contact and smile. Put that phone away and connect with people.
• A networking buddy, friend or colleague, can help you to break the ice and create your own circles. But don’t cling to each other.

Fear of the Annual Performance Evaluation

The Society for Human Resource Management says 95% employees are dissatisfied with their organization’s appraisal process and as many as 90% don’t believe the process provides “accurate information.” No wonder that the annual appraisal is something that employees across the board and hierarchies fear. Negotiation during the appraisal – be it asking for a pay raise or a new position – only elevates existing anxiety levels.

How to overcome it:

• Thinking of it as an opportunity to better yourself gives you “power” over the process and takes away the fear.
• Rewind to your earlier review. Build a case for your performance by listing down the KRAs and your accomplishments.
• Use objective data – new skills, responsibilities, projects and successes – to set the stage for negotiation.
• Peer feedback may help you gain a different perspective on your performance. Coworkers can reveal unknown facets of your working style.
• Conduct a mock review with a friend, get a good night’s sleep, dress appropriately and work on making a good impression.
• Don’t think of it as a confrontation with the boss. Instead, view it as a gateway for a conversation.
Now that you know how you can rid yourself from these workplace worries, go ahead and act. You have the freedom to #GoOutAndBe.

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