Anticipatory Fear: Don’t Let Your Team Be Paralized


July 11, 2011

“We usually get what we anticipate.”  Claude M. Bristol

When I think about anticipating something, I am immediately struck by strong feelings. It can be strong feelings about memories around anticipating something wonderful or it can remind me of a time when my anticipation about an event filled me with dread. Either way, the very act of spending time thinking about things in advance and trying to guess how it will all turn out is something we experience universally.  What is not universal is the physical expression of the anticipation and how we recognize it.

In thinking about this from a workplace standpoint, I wonder if our employees are spending more time anticipating success and greatness or if they are anticipating doom and gloom. I also wonder if as leaders, are we able to accurately read our staff and respond accordingly.  According to a study by Northwestern University, people are far more likely to be able to recognize, and therefore respond to, expressions of people from their own culture.  As organizations continue to move to having a more diverse workforce, we may need to address this as a way to train our leaders to be able to recognize and interpret body language of staff from many cultures.

Helping Your Team Visualize Success

  • Make a point to talk about the goal or goals of the department or group.
  • Offer time for each person to ask questions and contribute to the way success “should” look.
  • Talk about any fears the group has about reaching a successful outcome and discuss ways to avoid those outcomes.
  • Once the goals are visualized, take time regularly to discuss where the team is with regard to reaching the goal and focus on the positive aspects of what had been visualized by the group.

By focusing on success and teaching your team to do this as well, you will aid them in cutting down on the amount of anticipatory fear and increase their ability to produce successful outcomes.

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About Trish

A former HR executive and HCM product leader with over 20 years of experience.


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