Behind the masks and scary costumes this Halloween are American workers with real fear about what the last few months of the year will bring.
Workplace fright has gripped everyone from top executives to desk clerks. It ranges from fear of being fired to concerns about hitting performance goals or losing business to a competitor.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty out there in this business climate and that has created a lot of fear,” says Ryan Skubis, Florida district director for staffing agency Robert Half International.
A new survey by Accountemps, a Robert Half company, shows it is not ghosts, goblins or even public speaking that scare workers most — it’s making a mistake on the job. This angst stems from scaled down workplaces where workers now do the job of two, three or four workers. “People are putting so much pressure on themselves,” Skubis says. “They have a lot on their plates and they don’t see a lot of hope for slowing down.”
An effective fear buster is open communication with a manager or client. Instead of hiding mistakes, a worker should feel it is okay to fess up, suggest ways to correct the situation or ask for guidance, he says. “Mistakes happen all the time. Even leaders make mistakes. It is how we go about fixing them that matters.”
At the top levels, executives say they fear falling short of year-end projections. In some businesses, profits in prior years came from cost-cutting. Now, with little left to cut, revenue increases depend on growth and in some cases, it’s not there. Alex Trujillo, a senior manager at a wireless company, says the year has been more volatile for sales than expected. Now, he’s worried people won’t spend in the traditionally stronger fourth quarter and shareholders will be disappointed. “It’s a realistic and widespread concern.”
Trujillo’s fear of disappointing numbers trickles down to managers at all levels in businesses, says Kathi Elster, a management consultant and executive coach. They are afraid of new management coming in and making changes. As companies try to rebound, some workers are concerned about a younger person with specific technological skills replacing them, Elster says.
Elster suggests managing this fear by staying ahead. “Get active in your industries, attend conferences find out what’s coming in your field and get trained in it.” You may have to spend your own time and money doing this, she says. “It’s your insurance policy. That’s the world we’re in today.”
During the recession, businesses cut back on training programs and many still haven’t reinstated them. A new American Lawyer survey found new partners at the country’s large law firms fear lack of training will hamper their ability to win clients, a critical measurement of success. Nearly half of the survey’s 440 new law partners reported they have received no formal training in business development before and/or after their promotions. “I constantly worry about my ability to develop business,” said one of the respondents. “Although I consider myself a valuable and committed team member, I worry that I won’t shine in the numbers game.”
Detra P. Shaw-Wilder, a partner at Kozyak Tropin & Throckmorton in Miami, says law partners have to realize it may be scary or challenging to develop business, but it just has to be done. Collecting receivables also is mandatory, which also scares some lawyers. “The legal dollar is the hardest dollar to pay, which is why you have to manage that relationship with the client.”