When Organizations Hurt: The Business of Continuity and Resilience

6 Personal Fears Blocking Workplace Transformation

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A global pandemic is in full swing with countries in various stages of lock down, compulsory mask wearing, social distancing, distance learning, work from home (WFH) and other means of trying to manage a virus that has no borders.

In some ways, we could add a seventh fear to this list. Pandemic fear. This additional layer of fear is affecting us all in different ways. As you go through the six types of fears below, consider the anxiety and stress levels associated with what you may be going through and what others you work with may be going through as well.


Facing Down Every-Day Fear

Fear is what drives much of the workplace behavior that we consider toxic or politically motivated. When we refer to office politics, it’s the dark “under belly” of social dynamics that needs to be considered when seeking to transform an organization.

Every day fear comes in all shapes and sizes and can look and feel differently for people depending on the situation. Avoidance to change and the undercurrents of resistance to change should be recognized as early in the change cycle as possible.

We’re going to leverage Wilson Learning and The Versatile SalespersonTM training as we go through six personal fears blocking workplace transformation.


1. Fear of a Loss of Control

What might someone’s behavior look like in the workplace who fears a loss of control:  
  • They may seek to control their environment—people and situations—that get in the way of getting things done 
  • Attempts to manage emotions in a room can silence the voices of others 
  • A desire to control the outcome of a situation can slow the process of innovation, even if the focus is driven by results
Adapting a Social Style – Amiable > Driver
Flex your social style when someone acts as if there’s an underlying fear of a loss of control by leveraging Wilson Learning’s The Versatile Salesperson.
Amiable Social Style dealing with a Driver Social Style seeks a common denominator in building rapport.
  • Driver styles will always focus on results. As an Amiable your preference is to cooperate in order to gain agreement.
  • An Amiable increases the likelihood of finding an opening for building rapport and early trust with a Driver style, especially one who fears a loss of control, by finding ways to drive results through cooperation.


2. Fear of Not Being Seen or Heard / Feeling Invisible

What workplace behavior might look like if someone doesn’t feel seen or heard:
  • People can talk too much—the non-stop voice in the room
  • They can be the loudest voice in the room (four walls or virtual) 
  • They may have a tendency to talk over people without listening or waiting for others to complete their thoughts 
Adapting a Social Style – Analytical > Expressive
How can you adapt your behavior when someone has an underlying fear of not being heard?
If you’re an Analytical Social Style and you want to flex your style to influence an Expressive team leader.
  • During the next team meeting request that you all brainstorm ideas for solving a current challenge. 
  • Expressive Social Style types are motivated by the ideation process and the dynamics of team building around ideas—align / bond with them via creativity, ideation and innovations.

3. Fear of Not Being Good Enough

What workplace behavior might look like if someone fears that they’re not good enough:
  • Difficulty trusting people who they feel pose a threat to them, whether real or imaginary
  • Someone may try to prove themselves worthy by being critical of others 
  • Lack of confidence even when their capabilities and skills far outweigh that of others 
Adapting a Social Style – Expressive > Analytical
You’re an Expressive style and the other person is an Analytical. How might you flex your social style with someone who struggles with trusting the motives of others?
  • Present facts and figures to generate excitement and to influence decision-making.
  • Analytical Social Styles are data driven individuals—they trust data more than they trust emotions. Build excitement during the conversation by sharing data points that support your ideas—lead them to a decision via facts / figures.

4. Fear of Being Judged / Mistrust of Others

What workplace behavior might look like if someone has a fear of being judged
  • They can be the most judgmental people in the room—getting ahead of the curve means pre-judging others before they themselves can be judged 
  • Individuals have a tendency to see the glass as empty, introducing negativity into a conversation or taking a naysayer’s point-of-view 
  • Their suspicions of others judging them behind their backs often results in mistrust and  sensitivity to feedback from others
Adapt by Building Trust
Flexing your Social Style can be challenging when someone has an underlying fear of being judged. Working alongside a teammate, a colleague or a manager with tendencies to see the glass as empty can be an exhausting experience. However, there are ways to shift someone’s fear of being judged—even on a micro level.
  • Building trust with someone who has judgement issues must be done incrementally over time. You cannot rush the process; however, you can listen between the lines
  • Peel the onion by exploring the most recent positive experience that this individual has had with a business colleague—what did it look like for them? Was it a relationship built on trust? When did they know that they could trust this person?
  • Share your own experiences—trust is a two-way street. How do you learn how to trust people? How do you process feedback from others? How do you differentiate between healthy feedback and someone who judges you with their words?

5. Fear of the Unknown / Fear of Taking Risks

What workplace behavior might look like if someone has fears about taking personal or professional risks and dealing with unknown situations:
  • People with a fear of failure can sabotage their own success by viewing the glass as empty, even when genuine opportunities show the glass as full to overflowing
  • Individuals who fear failure will avoid assisting situations where chaos rules—their preference is to remain within their comfort zone
  • Feeling safe is not the same as being safe; however, they’ll prioritize their emotions around feeling safe
Adapting a Social Style – Driver > Amiable
You’re a Driver Social Style and your teammate is Amiable.
  • Amiable Social Styles prefer to make decisions as part of a team. Include an example of how to collaborate with team members in making high-risk decisions. 
  • Let them know that the team will have their back when they take smart, responsible risks—provide them with two or three real-world examples of what this looks like.

6. Fear of Being Left Behind / Abandonment

What workplace behavior might look like if someone fears being left behind
  • Fear of changing the status quo even if it means not being left behind
  • A fear of innovation when it could mean obsolescence
  • They may use their energy to claw back the status quo, which can increase org politics and the energy required to address it
Adapting a Social Style – Analytical > Analytical
You’re an Analytical Social Style and your boss is also Analytical. You both instinctively understand one another on a number of levels.
  • Identify a common situation that gives angst to another Analytical social style, e.g., an upcoming change to the status quo.
  •  Analytical Social Styles prefer to make decisions using data; therefore, it would feel right to use data to “back in” to their emotions


Wilson Learning and The Versatile Salesperson