The Factor of Fear

Blogger: Abby Filipowski, Workplace Strategist | Princeton, NJ, USA
November 15, 2016

Nelson Mandela said, “The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

I had to do just that in order to write this blog. It sounds so simple and easy: Just write 500 words. That’s four tweets—I can do that! But instead I started to fret. What did I want to write about? And how could I be sure that it would be bold … and captivating … and poignant?

Since writing is new to me, I wondered if I could even do it. Days went by, and I had fragments of thoughts, snip-its that I jotted down in passing that would be great for a blog, but I kept worrying about how to do it and how to make it GOOD. Then the light bulb in my head went on, and I decided to explore the topic that had been right in front of me for days: Fear itself.

As I am writing this, my fear is starting to dwindle and I wonder: What are you afraid of? Is it spiders? Or maybe looking stupid in front of your peers? Some people fear commitment and others fear rejection. It doesn’t matter what you’re afraid of. Fear is something that we all have felt, and many of us deal with it on a daily basis.

The type of fear we feel depends on each individual person, of course. But it’s the fear of the unknown and change that stand out to me. So many times in our lives we take a step into something that is unfamiliar; maybe you felt it when you went away to school, or maybe you decided to move to a new city for a job. What do you do with those feelings? How do you move past them?

For me, it’s my routines. I am a creature of habit, as many of us are. These routines help us conquer the fears that we face every day. Changing those routines is what can cause anxiety and stress in our lives. And this leads me to wonder: How do the changes we propose to our clients disrupt their routines? Can we help our clients deal and conquer their fears related to these upcoming changes?

I am a year into a new position at HDR, and I have seen fear on our clients’ faces. I can picture the gears moving in their heads as they think about their office or workstation or their group or department. They wonder how their spaces and routines will change. They wonder if they will have an office or be out in the open.

So what can we do to ease our clients’ minds? Here are some thoughts:

  • Listen: What are our clients telling us? Our clients will tell us what they want and don’t want. It is our job to listen to what they say and then guide them to an appropriate solution, keeping in mind that the right solution might not be the easiest one.
  • Assess: Gather the appropriate information from our clients to ensure that we understand what they want and what they need. This can be done by using high-tech and low-tech tools such as online surveys and focus groups.
  • Inform: Knowledge is power! Many of our clients don’t know enough about what we do, which can cause anxiety and fear. By educating our clients, we can help ease their fears.
  • Reflect: Go back after the fact and see how the changes we implemented are working. What has worked and what hasn’t? Have our clients’ fears subsided?

Remember that through all of this, sometimes we have to ask our clients difficult questions and have difficult conversations. Sometimes we need to push and pull them in just the right ways. And these difficult questions sometimes make our clients feel uncomfortable, but it's in these moments that their needs are truly revealed. Ultimately, through our guidance and experience, we can help our clients move forward past their fears to a better future for their organization.


Photo credit: Abby Filipowski

Reader Comments (3)

Great observations and valuable remedies about a topic we can all relate to, Abby! 

A very thoughtful and well-written piece.  It makes me want to be more empathetic to our clients' fears, but also personally to listen to our own advice that overcoming our fears can often be better in the long-term!

Kudos Abby!  We do all fear change in some capacity yet at its root change is movement and we are lucky to have folks like you who help to move our clients forward.

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