Your job can sometimes feel like walking on eggshells. You don’t want to do or say the wrong thing, so you hold back—and don’t do or say much of anything.
But succumbing to that fear can seriously impact your career success. By playing it safe, you miss out on opportunities to grow, hone your skills, and do your job more efficiently.
So, it’s time to face your fears—starting with these five common situations that you shouldn’t be afraid of at work.
1. Taking the Initiative to Schedule One-on-One Meetings With Your Boss
Many employees assume that since the boss is in charge, it’s his or her job to schedule all the meetings—especially a one-on-one meeting with an employee. Managers tend to have busy schedules, and many employees don’t want to risk impeding on their time, not sure if their boss considers a meeting with them a priority.
If your boss doesn’t take it upon him- or herself to schedule a recurring one-on-one meeting with you, though, you should take the initiative to request one. These meetings can be incredibly helpful to your career advancement and success in your individual position within the department. An individual meeting gives you the chance to ask for advice about tricky situations or assignments, talk through challenges, request feedback about your performance, and more. (Also, most bosses will accept the meeting invite without question.)
2. Making a Phone Call Instead of Emailing
Email has become the standard in most offices. From quick questions to intricate requests, almost everything is communicated electronically. Email simply seems less intrusive and gives recipients more time to really think through an answer, rather than putting them on the spot. It’s the way most people communicate, and you don’t want to break that mold.
But relying solely on email isn’t always efficient, and it certainly isn’t always the right option. When you pick up the phone, you can often get the answer to a quick question in a fraction of the time or a better understanding of an intricate concept—one that would have been next to impossible to summarize in an email.
It doesn’t have to be your go-to method of communication—but you shouldn’t hesitate to switch it up.
3. Turning in Something You’re Not 100% Sure About
When I started in my first communications position, I was terrified to turn anything in to my boss—because I assumed that if it wasn’t perfect, it would prove that I didn’t deserve the role. It would take me weeks of editing and re-editing to finally turn it in, and even then, I wasn’t confident about the final product.
But eventually, my boss helped me learn that sometimes, it’s best to get something on paper, then let him take a look. He’d provide his guidance and let me know sooner rather than later if I needed to do anything differently (or, alternatively, if I was on the right track all along).
I’m not saying you should turn in sub-par work. But if you’re feeling stuck with a certain assignment, don’t put off showing it to your boss. He or she will usually be glad to point you in the right direction. (Just make sure to do this well before it’s actually due. Turning in something at the 11th hour with the side note “I’m really not sure if this right” won’t help anyone.)
4. Clarifying Assignments With Your Boss
No matter what position you’re in, it’s likely you get requests from every direction—sometimes from your boss, sometimes from your co-workers, and sometimes from other departments. Eager to please, new employees will often jump on these assignments without question. It’s a fear of saying “no” mixed with the question of whether they’re even allowed to decline a request.
Failing to evaluate these outside assignments, however, can lead to wasted time and a focus on the wrong priorities. For example, just last week, one of my co-workers jumped on an “urgent” assignment she received from another department and spent the entire day scrambling to finish it. When my boss found out about the project later that evening, he revealed that if he’d known about it, he wouldn’t have had her work on it at all. It simply wasn’t a priority for our department.
So, when you receive requests from people other than your boss—especially if they don’t seem to jive with your usual work—it’s OK to bring it to your boss to make sure it’s something you should actually be working on.
5. Asking for Feedback
Feedback makes people nervous. It’s the fear of the unknown—asking that open-ended question (“How do you think my presentation went?”), not knowing whether your boss will pat you on the back or give a disapproving shake of his or her head. You may get praise, but you also may get flat-out criticism.
But keep in mind: Without feedback, you’re not going to get better. Without knowing how you can improve, you simply won’t. You’ll continue to do things the way you always have.
Feedback can be uncomfortable, but it’s not something to be scared of. It’s something to value—because it’s key to moving up in your career. Here are a few tips for taking it seriously, not personally.
If you’re not already doing these things, what are you afraid of? Incorporating these things into your career will help you do your job better—and might just be the key to your next promotion.