When is the last time you embraced your fears? There are different kinds of fears. Sometimes we fear the unknown, other times we fear what we know or think we know.

When we fear the known, we may have had direct experience with the fear. It is possible we tried to conquer it and failed and now we avoid it. For example, down hill skiing is a fear of mine. I have tried it several times and every time I hit that bunny hill, fear overcomes me. Visions of falling and breaking a bone flash in my mind. Is it rational? No. Is it probable? Likely, with my level of confidence.

The same might hold true for someone who is afraid of public speaking. Bill presents to the management team and it does not go well. Afterward, the feedback from his boss and peers is negative; focusing on Bill’s lack luster delivery, style and content. Having a bad experience can divert us from trying to get better, especially if the road to becoming proficient is a long one. The best way to tackle the fear is to chunk it up into smaller goals and celebrate the little steps of progress as The Positively Blog shares in his 5 life-changing keys to overcoming your fear.

Sometimes we fear the unknown – or what we think we can not control. We don’t like unknowns, so we might try to “fill in the blanks” – which leads to assumptions. In reality, we could be making up excuses for our inaction.

Shelia tells me the other day she fears she will be laid off since the company is offering early retirements due to business being down 25%. She is not eligible to take the retirement since she is a short service employee, even though she is 60 years old. She realizes there will be hurdles looking for a job at her age.

Let’s hope she does not paralyze herself in this situation. What she knows is the company needs to reduce staff, what she fears is she might fall victim to the personnel cuts.  Companies going through the layoff process usually have predefined method for reductions in force, otherwise known as a RIF plan. If there is a union, the contract will outline the formal process for selection. If the selection criterion is seniority based, then there is very little she can do to prevent her departure. Some companies prefer to layoff employees based on their skills and performance, though it requires a higher level of due diligence.

In this case, Shelia is still probably not in a position to affect the outcome. Why? Because of timing. There is very little she can do today; her performance reviews tell the story. What she can do is to look at how to protect her future risk. Having favorable performance reviews and attaining skills that are unique or provide a competitive advantage will increase her value with management. There are some good tips on Making Performance Reviews Less Stressful – for Everyone on ways to focus on improvement.

Shelia can exert more control over her fears of layoff by taking action to position her as indispensable. And if the company does let her go, those skills will differentiate her from the rest of her applicants.