Good-Job-America-A-Map-Of-Maternity-Leave-Policies-Around-The-World Fear of Authority Figures in the Workplace Isn’t Just Social Anxiety

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Fear of Authority Figures in the Workplace Isn’t Just Social Anxiety

People seeking help with their social anxiety often have difficulty dealing with individuals who have “power,” perceived power, or authority. These can be authority figures, those with high status, or those in parental roles. However, you don’t have to have social anxiety — fear of being evaluated negatively, embarrassed or humiliated, found inadequate, and rejected — to become anxious in the presence of someone in authority.

In general, we have been taught to respect all authority. As a result, we also have a deeply buried sense of guilt about the possibility of being caught doing something the authorities dictate we shouldn’t do. Consider how you feel when you drive and a police car appears. For most of us there is an immediate and automatic rush of adrenaline that not only gets our hearts pounding, but also takes our foot off the accelerator.

Like social anxiety, fear of authority figures can be a result of factors such as

– Strict, critical or overbearing parents who made you feel inadequate and powerless to do anything other than as instructed.

– Traumatic incident involving a person in authority that you have felt embarrassed, humiliated, rejected or punished in some way.

Conditioned response to feeling negatively evaluated, judged, and disempowered over time by an authority figure.

As a result, you tend to view authority figures as having more value and more deserving of power than you because you are less worthy by comparison. You see this as why they have that role, the power, and the discretion to use that power as they see fit…and you don’t.

These factors can cause you to perceive anyone in an authority role as having the right to judge you and the special power to threaten you or take arbitrary action against you. You are left with the feeling that a person in this role cannot be trusted to have your best interests at heart. Therefore, you feel you have to appease them and seek their approval so they don’t use their power against you. Where this fear manifests itself most often is in the workplace.

While it’s understandable that no one wants to feel at risk of losing their job, when you fear your boss or anyone in that role of authority, you can’t do your best. Your performance suffers because your thoughts and emotions are focused on how you are evaluated and how you can survive. Your thoughts are not focused on your being as productive as you need to be. Instead, you’re constantly analyzing everything that happens at work and worrying about what that means. You start to feel hypersensitive to what your boss says and does with respect to your worth and position at work.

If you are given the choice of interpreting what you see and hear as positive or negative, you will tend to interpret it negatively. This is because you need to stay alert to potential dangers to protect yourself. The result is that you hold yourself in lower esteem than your boss. You see yourself as needing to do whatever it takes to be a “good little cog in the wheel” but, at the same time, stay off the boss’s radar. Of course, the problem with doing this is that you are sabotaging yourself. You are acting in complete contradiction of what you need to do to be seen as an important, productive and necessary member of the team that the boss would like Not wants to lose.

What can you do to address this difficult problem? You must follow a program that addresses all components of your fear: cognitive, emotional, and physiological. You have to

1. Evaluate your positive attributes (talents, skills, experience, job achievements and skills) and your value as both an employee and a human being

2. Evaluate the positive attributes and value of your boss as both a worker and a human being

3. You see that comparing yourself to your boss is like comparing apples and oranges – that you two have different roles that require different attributes and behaviors – that one is not “better” than the other – just different

4. Make sure your boss has authority and power by virtue of his role alone

5. Examine your past successes in general and your work successes in particular to see the value of your work and to regain confidence that you have something worthwhile to contribute

6. Challenge automatic negative thoughts about your perceived inadequacy and your boss’s arbitrary use of power against you

7. Stop when you start analyzing fear-related situations

8. Stop when you start to feel hypersensitive to what your boss says and does

9. Learn to deeply relax in anxiety-provoking situations so you can think more clearly and rationally

10. Replace negative emotions with humor to keep yourself more positive and level-headed

11. Visualize your boss as just a human being and engage in funny or silly social situations

12. Visualize yourself calmly meeting your boss, asking a question, making a comment, or sharing information

13. Look for colleagues who act confidently with your boss and model on their behavior

14. Recognize that only you have the right to judge and validate your worth as a person

15. Evaluate your decision-making power as a competent human being and worker

16. Decide what you want to achieve at work for yourself and make a plan that you will follow to achieve it.

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