Scared Man

What scares workers most

Here’s some information and advice to help make your workplace a little less frightening.

It’s not ghosts or goblins or even public speeches that scare workers the most. In an Accountemps survey, nearly three in 10 respondents said making a mistake on the job is their biggest workplace fear.

Workers were asked, “Which one of the following is your greatest workplace fear?”

The most common fears of Canadian workers surveyed: making errors on the job (29%), dealing with difficult customers or clients (17%), speaking in front of a group of people (16%), conflicts with co-workers (14%), and conflicts with your manager (12%).

A similar survey by CareerBuilder found workers south of the border have similar fears of presenting in front of other people and “the boss”, but American workers also cited other aspects of their jobs that can keep them on edge.

More than a third of those surveyed (36%) said layoffs are what they are most afraid of at work. Other work-related issues that may keep them up at night include: pay cuts (13%), workload (9%) and forced relocation (4%).

While workers may have no control over job changes caused by economic circumstances, other workplace fears can be handled, according to the experts.

“A fear of failure is natural and can be a good motivator in healthy doses, but workers can’t let their concerns lessen their confidence,” said Gena Griffin, Canadian district president of Accountemps.

Like successful trick-or-treating, navigating frightening workplace situations requires the right approach. Accountemps offers five tips:

1. Plan your route. A 20-page to-do list would scare anyone and is a recipe for mistakes on the job. To ease workload-related worries – and be more efficient – prioritize your responsibilities, and delegate when possible.

2. Ask for directions. When facing a challenging project or new responsibilities, make sure you know what is expected of you. If you have concerns, let your manager know, and work with him or her to develop a strategy for overcoming them.

3. Bring a friend. Don’t be afraid to tap a mentor for advice on a particularly devilish challenge. When preparing a critical project or communication, ask a confidant for his or her feedback.

4. Say “thanks.” Whether it’s for candy or help with a difficult task, a sincere thank-you can go a long way toward building strong business relationships.

5. Give out treats. Volunteer to assist overburdened colleagues, and be quick with praise for those who deliver outstanding work. You’ll make people – including yourself – feel good and foster an environment where colleagues help each other on a regular basis.

A poll conducted by the authors of the bestselling book Crucial Conversations found more than 70 percent of people run in fear from a scary conversation with their boss, co-worker, or direct report.

That survey found the number one person employees fear holding a scary conversation with is their boss – such as the respondent who had to tell her boss that his daughter was not qualified to be hired for an open position.

According to the poll, 34% put off holding a scary conversation for at least a month while nearly one in four have put off the conversation for more than a year. Common escape methods include avoiding the person, dancing around the topic, and even quitting the job.

“Most people run the other way because experience tells them the other person will be angry or defensive said Joseph Grenny, coauthor of Crucial Conversations and co-founder of VitalSmarts.

“However, our research shows the select few who speak up candidly and respectfully – no matter the topic – are viewed as the top performers in their organization.”

Grenny offers these tips for approaching and conquering scary conversations about bad behavior: talk face-to-face and in private, assume the best of others, use tentative language (e.g. “I’m not sure you’re aware…”), share facts not conclusions, ask for their view, and use equal treatment with bosses and co-workers alike.

“Everyone should be treated like a reasonable, rational person who deserves your respect,” he said.

That’s frightfully good advice at any time of year.

The Scariest Jobs

What makes a job frightening? Imminent danger? Public speaking? Eerie surroundings? In a CareerBuilder survey, workers voted on the scariest profession, choosing careers ranging from the death-defying (firefighter) to the potentially humiliating (stand-up comedian).

Among the scariest jobs are:

  1. Bomb Squad Technician
  2. High Rise Window Washer
  3. Armed Forces
  4. Miner
  5. Police Officer
  6. Alaskan Crab Fishing
  7. Mortician
  8. Firefighter
  9. High School Teacher
  10. Cemetery Worker
  11. Exterminator
  12. Stand-Up Comedian
  13. Animal Control
  14. Stunt Person
  15. Politician

Tag Goulet is co-founder of and Academic Director of the International Association of Professions Career College which offers certificates for dream careers online at