Courage in the Workplace

Posted April 23rd, 2021 by Urban Legal Recruitment

The case for courage in the workplace

A culture of fear in the workplace makes it unlikely an organization will ever reach peak performance. As workers, we fear being ridiculed or excluded, making mistakes or ‘wrong’ decisions, being considered incompetent, and ultimately, losing our jobs. So we work ‘under the radar’ - hiding our authentic selves for fear we’ll be ‘uncovered’.

The problem is that fear shuts down communication, creativity, learning and empathy, and it’s exhausting. Fear puts us into a fight or flight mode and makes it hard to problem solve effectively or be innovative, and impossible to be our best selves and do our best work. 

“Law has typically been an area where vulnerability was seen as weakness and fear was never acknowledged, but that is definitely shifting,” according to Stacy Cowan, founder of Urban Legal Recruitment. “Today’s lawyers are looking for firms that offer a more humanistic approach.”

So why do so many companies still operate using fear to motivate? Because it’s expedient and provides good short term returns (how do you think Egypt’s pyramids were built?). Fear may be the oldest approach to human motivation but it’s also the least effective way to attain long term excellence in corporate culture and performance. 

Short term fear, like the push to finish a project or make a presentation, can actually motivate us and elevate our game. Long term effects of fear in the workplace, however, cause erosion of trust and confidence in the organization and in ourselves. 

Amping up your courage

Courage is a skill, and like all other skills, can be honed. It does come easier to some people due to genetic disposition, but we all have the ability to be brave. 

  1. Start by clearly articulating what you are afraid of, and share how you’re feeling with trusted coworkers. Ask them about how they overcome their own fears.
  2. Calculate the risk. Realistically assess what the risk of acting on your fear could be vs.a successful outcome. 
  3. Take baby steps to go beyond your comfort zone. Maybe you’re not ready to give an entire presentation but you can volunteer to introduce the presenter. . 

Fear is universal and no one is immune. You have undoubtedly had to confront situations  when you had to push past the fear so acknowledge your triumphs and step into the discomfort. According to Brené Brown, “We can choose courage or we can choose comfort, but we can’t have both. Not at the same time.”

One of the most courageous acts you can perform as an employee is to make a decision to leave a stable job. “You’d be surprised how many people are suffering in organizations where their core values no longer line up,” says Shona Tischner, Director of Executive Recruitment and Professional Support at Urban Legal Recruitment. “It requires a high level of courage to put yourself out on the job market, especially during uncertain times. But you are not alone and there are people who can help you if you just reach out.” 

Learning to recognize and manage fear can increase our resilience and ultimately increase our value to the organization, not to mention improve our physical and mental health. 

"Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear."
- Mark Twain

"Where your fear is, there is your task."
-  Carl Jung

Life. Career. Opportunity Awaits. If you have any questions, are considering a change, or just want to chat, we would love to hear from you. 

At Urban Legal Recruitment, we have experienced, along with our clients, the impacts of COVID-19.  We’ve made the necessary adjustments to ensure the safety of our team members and our clients.