Fear of new things: changes in the workplace

Fear is a basic human emotion. H. P. Lovecraft said that “the oldest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown”.

Fear is the emotional reaction to a specific and discernible threat. Fear isn’t necessarily negative; it aims to protect us from impending danger, triggering defensive behavior in the brain. This is known as fight or flight response.

A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder characterized by intense and persistent fear or aversion to an object or situation. Phobias usually cause the sudden onset of fear and can lead to anxiety or even panic attacks.

Neophobia is the fear of new things.

Of course, not all of us suffer from phobia, but most of us do have a milder form of this fear.

Another related phobia is metathesiophobia, the fear of change. Again, only a few will suffer from this phobia, but to a much lesser extent. The fear of change also dwells in most of us. We fear that our circumstances will change, mostly because we dread the unknown.

Most fears and phobias stem from anxiety and/or our previous negative experiences.

It’s only human to want to predict the unknown and have control over what happens in our lives. Predictability gives us a sense of control. So, being reasonably afraid of the unknown is normal and it can be an adaptive mechanism. 😊

Who among us hasn’t once felt an unwillingness to try something new?

Humans tend to feel safe in their routines.

Living in the same house, working for the same company, going to that same restaurant where employees know who you are and serve you your “usual” even before you speak, does this sound familiar?

Humans are creatures of habit. Familiarity is comfort. Familiarity is safety.

In fact, many of us have as much fear of success as we have of failure! Success (whatever “success” means to you) implies a fair number of unknown circumstances. Risky actions can lead to failure but being successful also implies a certain degree of risk-taking.

Both success and failure can radically change your life! When your life changes, you’ll be forced to adjust. In this process, your inner self, craving safety, may feel the potential advantages of success aren’t worth the effort of adapting to a new reality or losing the sense of security!

Hence, familiarity is comfortable, but it can also be limiting.

Changes in the workplace

Many of us crave for a change in the workplace to escape boredom and routine. Some even covet a complete career change! On the other hand, some of us are terrified at the possibility of any changes in the workplace, let alone a full-blown career change! Changes make us move from our comfort zone, so, they can be scary. 😱

Studies reveal that changes at work are major stressors for employee, the most unsettling changes being—not surprisingly—layoff or unemployment. But it doesn’t take major changes to create anxiety in employees, even subtle changes can make us very uncomfortable. 🙁

The problem is we can’t escape change and sometimes the fear of change is so strong it becomes overwhelming.

While reasonable fear at an early stage is perfectly normal, fighting change, maintaining a bad attitude at work, not trying to manage fear, and letting it interfere with your performance or work relations—that’s where you cross the line.

Change is vital for business. Businesses don’t thrive without an amount of change. Markets evolve, consumers’ views change, there’s new technology at every corner, and change is necessary for business growth. Change is vital to remaining competitive and relevant.

We live in a world with food delivery robots at restaurants and Roombas at home, machine learning, voice assistants, autonomous driving, and home automation, along with an evolving and massive quantity of information that is just one click away. It’s more than natural that your company will incorporate a degree of technological advancements to improve productivity and workflow.

Since changes are inevitable, as an employee you must adapt to any future alterations to ensure you continue to make relevant contributions to your company.

A CAT in the hat…?

In professional translation, and associated services such as proofreading and localization, for example, many translators were weary of CAT tools when they first entered the market. Many customers even refused to accept any work done with these tools due to quality concerns.

Welcomed by some, feared by many, CAT tools are here to stay!

Translators believed computer-assisted translation was coming to replace them and would ultimately make their profession redundant. Computer-aided translation was initially mistaken for machine translation, but we’re really talking about two very different things.

CAT tools are meant to aid human translators. Also, “wannabe” translators won’t be as competent as experienced professionals just because they’re using CAT Tools!

CAT tools cannot replace talent, skills, knowledge, specialization… Even actual machine translation is but a small part of what computer-aided translation is all about and humans are still essential players.

Of course, there are “purists”, even today, but it’s safe to say that a professional translator who shies away from CAT tools is like a businessman without a smartphone or an e-mail! 📱

For instance, they are missing out on being able to manage large volumes of specific terminology and repetitions with little to no error. CAT tools are essential for Quality Assurance in large technical translation projects. Especially, when the word volume is so large that a single instruction manual needs to be divided and assigned to several translators. CAT tools will allow for terminological consistency across the different translations submitted.

Today, many translation agencies view CAT tools as a requirement, and some will even have their own proprietary tool. In this scenario, professional translators must be skilled in working with this type of software if they want a chance at nailing job offers!

In sum, fear of change and progress can prevent you from evolving as a professional and keep you from remaining relevant in your own market.

So, people who feared losing relevance as professionals due to these new tools are actually becoming irrelevant now by shying away from progress.

Coping with fear

  • The first step to deal with fear of change in the workplace (and fear in general) is to acknowledge how you feel. Acknowledge the changes themselves and acknowledge how they make you feel. Accept the situation, don’t beat yourself up over being anxious and don’t be ashamed.
  • Seek help, share your feelings with colleagues, family, and close friends, or even with a professional (especially if we’re talking about phobia). We can always benefit from other people’s perspective and insights. Communication is vital! Communicate your concerns to your colleagues and you superiors for clarification.
  • Try not to focus on your fears while working, since it will affect your productivity and at this point you don’t want to be underproductive. Don’t deny how you feel, but try to assess it later, not during the workday.
  • Write down your fears and concerns, trying to focus on specific consequences of change. Re-read them later when you are relaxed. Do your concerns feel as scary now? 🤔
  • Learn to think of new experiences with excitement and anticipation instead of dreading them by increasing your emotional awareness and being more connected to your inner self.
  • This may come off as a cliché but: be positive! Try to have realistic expectations but maintain a positive mindset. For example, if your company grows, it will be beneficial for you in the long run, right? Try to look on the bright side. ☀️🌞

Avoidance is a maladaptive coping strategy. When we make an effort to control/avoid certain emotions, we end up intensifying them. Trying to suppress your fears rather than facing them is but a superficial and temporary solution. The outcome is feeling even more distressed.

Only by allowing yourself to embrace your fears and concerns will you be able to process them and decrease emotional distress. You need to learn how to change your negative thought patterns, which are the root cause of avoidance behaviors.

Whenever you’re feeling distressed or overwhelmed by fear, don’t forget to take a few deep breaths! It’s a natural tranquilizer. 😊

So, have you ever gone through major changes in the workplace or even a career change? Talk to us about how you’ve coped!

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