The fear of authority figures in the workplace is not just social anxiety

man teaching woman in front of monitor

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

In general, we have been taught to respect every authority. As a result, we also have a deep sense of guilt about the possibility of being caught doing something that the authorities dictate that we should not 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 pushes the heart but also lifts the foot from the accelerator.

Factors of the fear of authority figures

As the social anxiety, the fear of authority figures may be the result of factors such as

  • Severe parents, critics or bullies who made you feel inadequate and powerless to do anything other than how they directed you.
  • Traumatic incident involving a person with authority you felt embarrassed, humiliated, rejected or punished in some way.
  • Conditional response to feeling negatively evaluated, judged and rendered impotent over time by an authoritarian figure.

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

These factors can make you perceive anyone with an authoritative role like having the right to judge you and the special power to threaten or arbitrarily act against you. There remains the feeling that a person in this role cannot be trusted to have your best interests at heart. Therefore, you feel that you must appease them and ask for their approval so that they do not use their power against you. Where this fear manifests itself most often it is at work.

While it is understandable that no one wants to feel at risk of losing their jobs, when they are afraid of their boss or anyone else in that authority role, they cannot do their best. Your performance suffers because your thoughts and emotions are focused on how you are evaluating yourself and how you can survive. Your thoughts are not focused on your being as productive as you need to be. Instead, constantly analyze everything that happens at work and worry about what it means. You begin to feel hypersensitive to what your boss says and do with respect to your value and your position at work.

If given the opportunity to interpret what you see and feel positive or negative, you will tend to rotate it negatively. This is because you have to protect yourself from potential dangers to protect yourself. The result is that you consider yourself less respected than your boss. You see yourself as if you need to do everything necessary to be a “good little gear in the wheel” but, at the same time, stay away from the boss’s radar. Of course, the problem with acting this way is that you’re sabotaging yourself. You are acting in total contradiction with what you have to do to be seen as an important, productive and necessary member of the team that the boss not I want to lose.

What can you do to tackle this fear of authority?

You must follow a program that addresses all the components of your fear – cognitive, emotional and physiological. You have to:

1. Evaluate your positive attributes (talents, skills, experience, successes and skills) and your value both as a worker and as a human being

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

3. See that comparing yourself with your boss is like comparing apples and oranges – that you two have different roles that require different attributes and behavior.

4. See that your boss has authority and power by virtue of his role only

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

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

7. Stop when you start analyzing situations related to fear

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

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

10. Have negative emotions with humor to keep yourself more positive and balanced

11. Show your boss as a simple human being and colleagues in fun or silly social situations

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

13. Look for colleagues to act confident with your boss and model yourself after their behavior

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

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

16. Decide what you want to get on the job for yourself and make a plan that you will follow to reach it.

To learn more,  Watch this short video :

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