Move Aside FOMO, FOPO is the New Fear in Town and It Can Impact Work

Move Aside FOMO, FOPO is the New Fear in Town and It Can Impact Work | Career | Emeritus

Hays’ annual Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Report 2023 reveals that 37% of professionals prefer to hide their authentic selves at the workplace because of the fear of judgment from others. This feeling is commonly called FOPO or the fear of people’s opinions. Many professionals tend to avoid expressing themselves or avoid the limelight at the workplace because of this fear, which ultimately impacts workplace productivity and slows down their professional growth. This blog explains what FOPO is and how professionals can overcome the fear of judgment to succeed in their careers.

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What is FOPO and How Does it Differ From FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)?

Michael Gervais, a performance psychologist, introduced the term FOPO (Fear of People’s Opinions). It refers to the feeling of anxiety about what others think of you and how they view your actions. A common example of FOPO in the workplace is professionals hesitating to share creative ideas with their team because they worry about criticism or disapproval from their team members. Moreover, managers often hesitate to make significant decisions because they fear resistance from employees or workplace conflicts. 

Gervais explains that FOPO happens because the human mind fears social rejection. Moreover, humans have been trained to seek validation and fit in with other people since ancient times. This need, therefore, creates an overbearing effect of other people’s opinions on our personal and professional lives.

FOPO is contrary to FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). FOMO involves the anxiety or fear of being left out of opportunities at the workplace. For example, a professional worried about not being included in the new project is called FOMO. However, FOPO is when a professional wilfully avoids taking part in project discussions or brainstorming sessions because of the fear of how others will perceive their ideas or plans. 

Simply put, FOMO means the fear of being withdrawn or held back from things. However, in FOPO, professionals themselves avoid taking part in discussions and stay away from risks.

How Can FOPO Impact My Career Progression and Professional Growth?

The fear of other people’s opinions restricts one’s potential by preventing them from completing work or taking new initiatives. Therefore, FOPO ultimately impacts career progression. Here are some significant ways it can hinder professional growth:

  • Professionals hesitate to take on management  or leadership roles 
  • They start playing safe and avoid taking risks, which stagnates professional growth
  • The fear of criticism results in low confidence and gives birth to self-doubt, making it difficult to showcase skills
  • Professionals avoid engaging with colleagues or other people to avoid rejection, resulting in a small network and fewer career opportunities
  • Low engagement or visibility in the workplace leads to loss of career growth or promotion opportunities
  • Constant stressing over what others think impacts efficiency and causes stress and burnout

What are the Signs and Symptoms of FOPO?

Some of the most common signs to check whether one has FOPO are: 

  • Frequent and unnecessary apologizing at the workplace 
  • Hesitation to stand up for yourself in the workplace
  • Avoiding the spotlight or being at the forefront
  • Indecisiveness
  • Constant worrying that others are upset with you 
  • Self-doubt and self-rejection
  • Constant overthinking 
  • Avoid sharing ideas or speaking your mind at the workplace
  • Highly sensitive to criticism
  • Perfectionism 

ALSO READ: Smart Career Progression: 5 Proven Steps for Professional Growth

What Strategies Can I Use to Overcome FOPO and Regain Focus on My Work?

FOPO leads to excessive overthinking, avoidance behavior, and workplace anxiety. Therefore, professionals with FOPO avoid speaking at team meetings and interacting with other professionals. Consequently, they often lose out on opportunities. We have compiled a few effective strategies to overcome the fear of other people’s opinions at the workplace and improve productivity:

1. Focus on Things You Can Control

One of the best ways to manage workplace anxiety and overcome fear of judgment is to focus on things that are in your control. Instead of worrying about what others think, focus on improving your skills, building a strong work ethic, and doing work diligently to reduce the chances of errors. Doing so reduces the fear of negative criticism.

2. Embrace Failure 

FOPO means the fear of receiving negative criticism from others. The best way to manage it is to embrace failure. Assess shortcomings and mistakes and focus on self-improvement. Embracing failure helps reduce anxiety and increases resilience toward criticism.

3. Write Affirmations

Writing positive affirmations about personal and professional lives gives a sense of self-worth. Ultimately, you care less about what others think.

4. Build Confidence 

Building confidence helps manage FOPO because you become sure of your abilities, skills, and ideas and focus less on what others think about you. This requires self-assessing your strengths and weaknesses, setting and achieving personal and professional goals, and doing things outside your comfort zone.

5. Have Strong Values and Beliefs

Embracing strong values like integrity, accountability, respect, and continuous learning increases self-esteem and offers a sense of identity. Moreover, it makes you believe in yourself, thus reducing fear of judgment.

ALSO READ: What are the Top 10 Future of Work Trends That Will Rule in 2030?

How Can FOPO Affect Team Dynamics and Collaboration in the Workplace?

FOPO impacts employee performance because of the constant fear of judgment looming over their heads. Therefore, they are unable to make sound decisions. The following are some significant ways FOPO impacts team dynamics at the workplace:

1. Poor Workplace Productivity

Due to FOPO, professionals avoid voicing their opinions, resulting in poor communication within the organization. Ultimately, this impacts workplace efficiency, employee performance, and productivity.

2. Lack of Ownership

The fear of other people’s opinions makes professionals shy away from taking responsibility or making decisions. Consequently, this leads to a lack of ownership within organizations and impacts collaboration among team members.

3. Workplace Conflict Avoidance 

Strategic conflict management is essential for teams to function effectively. However, the fear of people’s opinions makes it difficult for professionals to address challenges or offer negative feedback. As a result, unresolved tensions impact workplace relationships and increase resentment among team members, making collaboration difficult.

4. Limited Creativity

Professionals with FOPO have self-doubt and low confidence and are unable to share ideas with their team. Hence, teams show low creativity and innovation, which impacts organizational growth.

5. Poor Collaboration and Trust Among Team Members

The constant fear of judgment makes professionals feel insecure and impacts their decision-making ability. Over time, it results in low morale, collaboration, and trust among the team members.

ALSO READ: Mastering the 5 Essential Soft Skills for Professional Success

Overcoming fear of people’s opinions is difficult because, right from childhood, we are wired to fit in and feel validated. The lack of confidence is also a major reason for FOPO because professionals do not trust their abilities. Therefore, professionals must upskill themselves and learn new trends to stay on top of things. It helps boost their confidence and reduces FOPO. You can pursue Emeritus’ online courses to learn high-paying skills in respective fields, gain practical experience, and advance your career while overcoming fear. Check our online courses today to take charge of your career trajectory!

By Sneha Chugh

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About the Author

Content Writer, Emeritus Blog
Sneha is a content marketing professional with over four years of experience in helping brands achieve their marketing goals. She crafts research-based, engaging content, making sure to showcase a bit of her creative side in every piece she writes. Sneha spends most of her time writing, reading, or drinking coffee. You will often find her practicing headstands or inversions to clear her mind.
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