Fear and Chaos: Taking Action at Work


January 7, 2021

Ten years ago, I wrote an article called Nothing Should Trump Personal Accountability. Back then, I was thinking about ways to reduce fear at work.  Since then, a lot has changed. Our world seems more on edge than ever.  We’re in the middle of a global pandemic, racial and ethnic clashes are at a high, and we’re in a time of horrific political unrest in the United States and other parts of the world.

Chaos in the US CapitalToday, I feel compelled to use that same title, for different reasons.  The US Capital was attacked by a group of extremist Trump supporters, fueled by the President himself.  Our elected officials, just there to do their work, cowered in fear as armed men and women rampaged the building. Today, many business leaders are wondering what to do.  Should they ignore talking about it in the workplace? Should they address it?

I strongly believe the worst thing to do is ignore the situation. Organizations need to have a plan to deal with tragedies of ALL types, whether they are politically charged, acts of nature, or caused by an individual. Business leaders should address these situations immediately. Creating a sense of calm and sharing the organization’s support resources can ensure that your employees feel less fearful and have ways to deal with any anxiety they experience.Elected officials cower in fear at the US Capital is attacked

7 steps to take immediately to reduce fear at work

  • Communicate the organization’s stance on the issue. Be succinct.
  • Have a zero tolerance policy for violence– Share that while an individual’s Constitutional rights are supported, there will be zero tolerance in the workplace for acts of violence, or behaviors that incite violence.
  • Provide resources-  Proactively share EAP resources, wellness provider options, or other well-being solutions you’ve purchased. Encourage employees to talk about their fear or anxiety with trained professionals.
  • Make the HR team visibly available- Today, more than usual, share how to contact HR. Set up open office hours, reach out to employees and leaders proactively to ask if they need assistance, etc.
  • Train your HR team and other leaders- Being attune to warning indicators that indicate employees are anxious, or even about to take extreme action is critical. Ensuring your team understands how to identify the indicators can help prevent violence in your workplace.
  • Practice and anticipate outcomes-  Planning for turmoil can help your organization have a quick reaction before things get out of control. This will empower you so that you take more control over your future success.
  • Take care of YOU- This is the most important. When you notice your fear associated with anticipating how something will turn out negatively, do something to take your mind off of the situation. Get up and moving. Take a walk, go to a private place (even your car) for 10 minutes of meditation, eat something healthy. Any of these things can help divert negative thoughts and help you visualize how you can have a successful result instead.  If YOU are not at your best, it will be more challenging to help others.

What actions are you taking in your company to help your employees deal with these times of chaos? I’d love to hear about them.

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About Trish

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


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