A meeting room. Daytime. Everyone is sitting down, facing a screen which displays an amateur PowerPoint with inappropriate gifs and clipart on every slide. Karen enters, a dully dressed woman with bad hair and glasses. Her ensemble includes a cardigan where she seems to keep an endless supply of tissues. She also wears a name badge with ‘Karen’ written on it. She also carries a clipboard.
Karen: Good afternoon team. I’m Karen from HR and I’m here to talk to you work. Who here likes work? Put up your hand. Well, done. Who here doesn’t like work? Come on. Remember, everything that happens here is private. Yes, I’m HR but I’m here for you as much as I am here for ‘the Man’. Don’t be afraid. Right. Anyone here scared of work? I’m looking at you there. We’ve had a chat haven’t we. Well, we are all here for you, Ian. In fact we are here because of you. Awwww. Fear of work is real, people.
Slide: “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.”
Karen: When H. P. Lovecraft, the master of horror wrote this in 1920, wrote this, work didn’t exist. People had a lot of spare time and no one worried about money. It was a happy time in human history. Now, everyone has to work. Even children. And because there are so many people who need to work, we have lay-offs where we have to let go people who no longer fit into the company, to make way for other people out there who might be more effective, more diverse, more cheaper. So I’m here today, to talk you through how to overcome a fear of work.
Slide: Acknowledge the change.
Karen: The first, most important thing to do in the presence of work is acknowledge change. There’s no longer such a thing as a job for life, despite what your parents have told you. So deal with it.
Slide: Acknowledge your fears.
Karen: When you have a fear of work, write down your fears on paper so you have them in an objective form and can stop dwelling on them. Then jot down what you would do in the event that work fear came to pass, working through each of your fears. Then stick it in your desk draw and forget about it. You’re a grown up. I did this a few years ago, and you know what, I’ve never had to look at it. Like my fear of Maureen using my special mug or IT not being about to find all my top secret files with all your review in them. Not had to look at the list once. Try it. It works. In fact, try it now. Write down three things about work that scare you. Go.
Karen: Right, now, give me of your work fears, people. Let’s workshop.
[Karen interacts with the audience. She gives enthusiastic if terrible advice.]
Slide: Accept your feelings and seek support.
Karen: When you’re going through the world of work, it is natural to feel uncomfortable. Jobs weren’t designed for people. They were designed in the 1950s for computers, but computers were too expensive. As a hairless monkey, you may be coping with loss of co-workers, a project, prestige, or simply the soul crushing predictability of your day-to-day routine. You may be experiencing a variety of fears. Expect and accept your feelings and reach out to others to share your experiences, reactions, and emotions. Talking to people will make you feel better. However, sometimes that might be hard, so start small. Email some emojis.
Slide: Designate “worry time.”
Karen: Worrying interferes with work and depresses everyone else around you. So don’t let worry spill over into every crevice. No one wants worried crevices. If you’re worried about work, set aside a time each day when you’re going to focus on those fears. Mine is 3:49 every day. I even mark it down in my diary so everyone in my team knows it’s designated worry time and I will be in the disabled toilet on 7th if they need me.
Karen: Communication, communication, communication, followed up by more communication. This is why the company are now laying on designated communication classes for everyone in the building. Korean is on a Monday lunchtime, sign language is on Tuesday evenings, and this month we are introducing Morse code and semaphore. Come and see me after if you want to sign up to either. If employees, like you guys, are effectively communicating your fears to co-workers and leaders, like myself, we can address those concerns, through more communication. So, use those flags, ask for help!
Slide: Stay positive.
Karen: Fear is all in your mind. So ask yourself questions about times you’ve successfully over come fear in the past. For example, I was afraid of water, especially the ocean, so I became a Life Boat man. I’ve not yet been called out, living in Orpington, but I know that if I was my bravery would overcome my fear.
Slide: Have realistic expectations.
Karen: We aren’t all good at our jobs, are we? Some of us are just ‘fine’ at our jobs. You know what I mean. We all have those colleagues. If you look around now, you can probably see a few of them. So, sometimes we need to adjust our expectations. We aren’t all good enough to get a promotion or a pay rise, are we Ian?
Slide: Be flexible.
Karen: Be flexible and available to take on any new tasks. For example, we’ve recently had to let go of the cleaning company, so now we are all responsible for enthusiastic use of the toilet brush. You know what they say; clean bowl, healthy bowel.
Slide: Get involved.
Karen: We are also going to be responsible for cleaning all the desks at the end of the day and washing up. Get involved. Yay.
Slide: Reduce your stress.
Karen: One very effective technique to reduce workplace stress is cleaning. It only takes a few minutes and can now be be done at work. If you don’t have a private office, you can clean your desk or even in the bathroom whenever you’re feeling tense.
Slide: Increase your value.
Karen: Take the time to know how valuable you are as a person. The way to do this is as follows. Weigh yourself, divide that by your salary, then multiply by pie. Then, convert that into pounds and then convert that into Kenyan shillings. Finally, divide by the cost of a pint of milk. You now have your value.
Slide: Keep working.
Karen: That’s what you’re getting paid for.
Slide: an animated picture of an envelope.
Karen: So, hopefully now, everyone is feeling less scared of work. Now, if everyone reaches under their chair, you should find an envelope, like this.
Karen pulls a large envelope with her name on it from her clipboard.
Karen: Now, as we are all here together, I thought it would be good to open our envelopes. Here. Now. So open your envelopes. There will be one of two things. Your paper will either say, ‘safe’ or ‘fired’. If you are ‘safe’ congratualtions – you still have a job and ample opportunity to combat your fear of work. If fired, then stay here with me and I will take you through what happens next. But don’t worry, your will be fine. You are in my safe hands after all. So, open up your envelopes. Everyone opened. What does it say? Safe? Really? What about you? Safe, see that’s great. Nothing to be afraid of. Anyone got a ‘fired’? No? Oh, really? Even you? Oh, that’s great. See, work is nothing to fear is it? If I open mine, you will see we are all safe here. Work is a safe space.
Karen opens her envelope.
Karen: oooo, the tension. LOL.
Karen reads the paper. She turns it over. We see that it says ‘fired’ on it. Karen looks in the envelope. Turns it over.
Karen: Very funny. Who switched my envelope? Was it you, Ian? Was it? Let me see your envelope.
Karen: Right. Well, thank you all for attending my seminar on overcoming fear of work. I’m sure I’ve made it all a lot less scary. Yes. So, all the safe people, please leave by the door. All the fired… person… wait here.
Slide: Thank you.
Audience exits. Karen flops on a chair and doesn’t move.
— End —