Are you fearful when it comes to discussing issues with your employer? Here’s how to make sure you aren’t holding yourself back

A fear of speaking up when it comes to authority figures is extremely common, even with the most outgoing personality types. However, it could be hindering your work, knocking your confidence and preventing you from progressing up the career ladder.

Why you are afraid

Fears are a function of our self-preservation. However, unless you have a tyrannical boss, this fear is often unwarranted. That’s not to say having those tough conversations—about a difference in opinion, a salary raise or a day off—are any easier.

Fixing your fear

Megan Sutherland, clinical social work/therapist at Vancouver-based Willow Tree Counselling tells us that while it depends on what the employer is asking for and also personality types, there are steps you can take to not let your nerves get the best of you when it comes to speaking with your boss.

Step 1: Face your feelings

Take a moment to think what is causing this reticence. Is your boss always rushed? Then ask them for a specific time to meet. Do you feel your boss is intimidating? It could be time to ramp up your conversation around the water cooler and ask about their family to humanize the boss a little. Are you asking for a raise? Be sure you come prepared with a log book that details all you have done to contribute to the company.

Step 2: Don’t be afraid of conflict (when necessary)

Most people will shy away from conflict. We want to be “nice,” but that can impact self-esteem, and also create relationships that are neither authentic nor constructive. This fear of conflict often has nothing to do with your boss and is more of an internal challenge. First learn to recognize what your triggers are. If there is conflict in the office, do you get a knot in your stomach? Why? Once you identify the cause and realize most of the time it’s not personal, you can learn to approach the situation in a calm manner.

Step 3: Rehearse

Learn to ask for what you need by identifying your need. This can either be by writing your thoughts in a journal or practising in front of friends and family, to be sure you are fully prepared.

Step 4: Active listening

It’s an interesting exercise to hear feedback and be willing to listen. It shows you are a flexible person and willing to learn and grow. And you don’t even have to agree with the boss, you can just respond with “that’s an interesting point,” or “that’s something to think about.” Don’t feel the need to respond instantly. By letting them talk, and taking a moment to think, you can create a far more comfortable environment and open the gates to communication.