Five Career Traps Set By Fear

  • By Shawn Sommerkamp
  • 30 Jun, 2016

Are you afraid that fear may be stifling your professional growth?  How many times has a cloud of anxiety distorted your view of a delicate workplace situation?  How long have you wanted to pursue something more exciting, more risky, but chose the safer path?  

To guide you through such pitfalls, we’ve assembled 5 of the most common ways fear can work against your career.

Proverbs 29:25     Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe  

What exactly is fear? Being scared isn’t just for Halloween! Fear is our most powerful emotion. Studies show people identify fear above any other sentiment. Fear is primal. It is controlled by two almond-sized regions of the brain called the amygdala, which facilitate past experience, decision-making and feelings. Our fear response is a biological outcome of how we experience our environment—and the workplace is no exception.

While there is a valid role it plays in life, the body tends to irrationally use fear. Learning the five most common professional potholes will enable you to remain on-course for a thriving career.

#1 Playing it safe by avoiding mistakes

Fear of making errors can do more damage than you may realize. Not only will such anxiety dampen your greatest strengths, it will prevent you from doing your most creative work. Keeping a positive frame of mind by envisioning optimistic outcomes justifies prudent risk-taking. Albert Einstein once said, “A ship is always safe at the shore, but that is not what it was built for.”

 #2 Ceremonially repeating past successes

How vivid is your memory of the last time you were recognized in front of colleagues? It’s tempting to say “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” In this day and age, however, the only 21st Century constant is change. To be a versatile asset to the team, it is useful to constantly try new things beyond your traditional role. To be upwardly mobile, enhance your understanding of cross departmental operations. Are you in Sales, get a better understanding of Service. If you are in accounting, get out in the field once a quarter.   Are you a customer facing engineer? Spend a few extra days at headquarters the next time you travel and see how the back-office functions.

 #3 Trying way too hard

Many spend too much time and effort forcing outcomes they can neither control nor fully understand. It is important to realize that there is a time and place for patience; we must submit to God when we grasp that a situation requires a strategic waiting period. I often refer to this as a Coffee Break (and to our friends in the UK, have a tea.) If you are baffled by a situation, go get a cup of coffee. Take time to enjoy it while mulling over the data in your head. Take no action more than drinking your coffee. The answer will come to you without having to overwork (or overstress) yourself. In a corporate culture that loves to grind the gears, remember to maximize productivity by taking pause while God’s plans unfolds before us.

#4 Struggling toward egocentric independence

Only God knows all, so why do we constantly fall prey to the notion we can solve every problem that comes our way? The Pareto principle says we spend 80% of our time on 20% of our problems. Fear (pride of failing) keeps us from asking for help when stumped. Although asking for assistance in humility could foster a quick resolution, we cave to the fear of looking bad and suffer for it. Whether you work for a corporation or a small business, you are part of a team. Ask for help. If done respectfully, people love to —just don’t forget to thank them for their efforts.

#5 Choosing work over a walk with God

It is OK to “fail” at a company that does not share your values and ideals. It is not OK to allow an unscrupulous company to influence your relationship with God. As Christians, we are called to work in all things as if we are working for the Lord. However, if you find your employer is encouraging unprincipled behavior, it may be time to look for an opportunity elsewhere. After all, a professional speed bump can be overcome, but your walk with God is eternal life.

Shawn Sommerkamp is a motivational speaker and Executive Coach with 20+ years of Fortune 100 leadership experience.  He founded Motivationeer™ to coach Christian professionals how to use their career to glorify God and support local church growth.

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The Holidays are over. 

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Give thanks, no matter what is happening in your life.  This is easy…right? 

A national polling firm named Penn, Schoen, & Berland conducted a survey, mid-2012, evaluating American attitude toward thankfulness. They conducted more than 2,000 interviews across the US general population. I’m only going to share a few pieces of the overall report:    

  • 90% of people said they would describe themselves as people who are generally grateful for their family and friends
  • However, only 52% of women and 44% of men express any thankfulness regularly
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  • 74% of the 2000 respondents never or rarely show gratitude at work (for anything)
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