In all of my years of working in and with organizations, I have never heard anyone say the words, “I’m scared” at work. I’ve heard: “I’m concerned” and “I’m uncomfortable,” but never the words, “I’m scared.”
These are scary times. It’s scary to go to the grocery store, to know who it’s ‘safe’ to stand next to, and to travel.
Make it safe for employees to talk about their fears.
One of the first things I teach when I talk about change management is letting people express how they feel – their worries, hopes, and concerns. The people you work with are likely scared. They may be wondering if their job is secure, what happens if they get sick, and are they doing enough work from home with their kids present.
It’s hard to talk about fear because we think doing so makes us appear weak. Leaders and managers need to normalize the conversation. Make it ok to talk about how people feel at work.
Here are four steps to make it easier to talk about fear at work:
- Leaders and managers – admit what you’re afraid of. People will take your lead. Admitting how you feel demonstrates strength not weakness.
- Tell people it’s ok to be afraid and it’s ok to talk about fear at work. Sanction the conversation.
- Give more information about contingency planning, budgets and work from home and time off policies than you think you need to. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Then do it again.
- Create a forum for people to talk about how they feel about recent events and changes. Managers are not therapists or dumping grounds, but you are coaches. You can help people work through their work-related fears when you know what those fears are.
I’ve always believed that demonstrating our humanity at work is a strength. Being authentic makes people want to work for and with you. Admitting concerns makes you approachable and real.
Your employees and coworkers don’t need to know the details of your whole life, but they do need to see your humanity and be able to relate to you. Talk about how you feel and open the door for others to do the same.