How Worried Are You About Your Career? Here’s a Way to See Where You Stand

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Apr 23, 2018

Workplaces are undergoing profound transformations to accommodate the varying expectations of a multi-generational workforce and the increasing influx of AI-enabled entities.

The inevitable need to maintain robust talent pipelines for assuring a healthy supply of capable leaders has galvanized progressive organizations to place greater emphasis on effective talent development and employee engagement activities.

However, the sobering reality of shrinking positions that can productively and profitably use human talent is increasing fears of workplace insecurity and incentivizing “career cannibalization” of peers by ambitious professionals. Consequently, the adage of “survival of the fittest” has permeated the digital world with a powerful ferocity. Therefore, it is becoming imperative for mindful professionals to devise effective strategies for charting their careers on a more robust and fruitful course. The analytical tool is being presented for facilitating a self-assessment.


The questions should be answered in a simple Yes/No manner and then the tally of Yes answers should be matched on the following FCS scale:

The four categories highlighted in the FCS scale  can be better understood as follows:

Mildly Fearful

This pertains to the normal level of fear that a professional experiences at work and should not be a cause for alarm. Psychologists often point out that some fear is actually a good thing and one needs to embrace it in a meaningful way to take advantage of its benefits, e.g., having higher level of situational awareness, discovering personal strengths and weaknesses, facilitating personal development. It is part of human nature because of uncertain outcomes in the workplace and the inherent personality characteristics of an individual. Senior professionals with a high EQ (Emotional Quotient) are often found in this category.

Significantly Fearful

This reflects an elevated level of fear that is palpable in a person’s behavior/actions as they perform assigned responsibilities. It is generally triggered by the inability to adjust to an unfamiliar or pressurized work environment while trying to gain traction within the corporate hierarchy for a promising career. It is usually noticeable to close colleagues and peers who often act as “unofficial counselors” to help ameliorate a condition that could derail a promising career. Corporate cultures thriving on strong shared values and an effective mentoring approach are best suited to alleviating such issues. New talent and junior professionals are often found in this category.

Highly Fearful

This pertains to professionals working under profoundly stressful conditions that can be due to a multitude of factors, e.g., domineering supervisor(s), impending layoffs, team discord, leadership change, disciplinary proceedings, toxic workplace politics. It can significantly dilute a person’s self-worth causing such extensive damage to their sense of well-being that it can manifest in poor job performance. HR is generally required to intervene in these situations preferably proactively, before simmering discontent casts a dark shadow over the entire corporate culture landscape. Middle managers are often found in this category.

Critically Fearful

This reflects a debilitating level of fear that can lead to lingering mental and physical illness if not treated by professionals with the right expertise — psychologists, psychiatrists and therapists. The condition arises from trying to survive in a toxic workplace due to lack of options for switching employers or earning a meaningful living in another way. These may exacerbate an underlying condition. Generally, these employees tend to ignore, suppress or hide their worsening condition by masking it with outward displays of conformist behavior. However, such attempts are often detectable by astute observers or co-workers who notice the deviation from “normal” behavior through various combinations of physical alerts. Some of these are: nervous laughter, refraining from proactive peer socialization or professional networking, unexplained sweating, body tremors, frequent stammering, desperate attempts to fit-in, excessive overtime working, significant number of sick leaves, inability to voice personal opinion, profound sycophancy indulgence, etc. Unfortunately, a professional who has reached such a stage of fearfulness is often deemed unsuitable or stigmatized for career progression and, more likely, liable for layoff or termination. Mismanaging the departure of such an individual can have disastrous consequences as evidenced by the recurrence of workplace violence perpetrated by former employees.

Parting thoughts

The FCS scale also serves as an early warning system for talented professionals who might be neglecting their well-being while feverishly trying to stay relevant in the digital world. Quite often, such people tend to marginalize health concerns, hobbies, family and friends, old contacts and acquaintances as they focus on career, embracing stressful, unreasonable and detrimental working conditions while trying to impress influential sources of power with their professional abilities. Such “transient” bonds cannot substitute for the time-tested relationships that are generally needed in precarious situations to provide strong and reliable support to restore a balanced approach to life and to recalibrate priorities.