4 MIN READ

This Common Fear Can Hold You Back at Work. Here’s How to Get Past It

a dog typing on the computer
Carmen Mandato/ The Penny Hoarder

Do you get excited when the newest generation of smartphones is announced?

Or do you grimace at the idea of learning your way around your phone all over again because all you want to do is make calls, text your sister and check the weather, for Pete’s sake!

If you fall into the latter category, you may have technophobia, a fear or intense dislike of computers and other advanced technology. Older adults have a slightly higher aversion to technology, but genders appear to be almost equally tech-averse.

“We all laugh about technophobia, but it’s no joke,” notes essayist Erica Manfred. “The symptoms actually match other phobias: breathlessness, inability to think clearly, excessive perspiration, nausea, shaking, becoming angry or ‘losing control’ and much more.”

Your life won’t be ruined if you never want to own a robot vacuum cleaner or streaming device for your television.

Being technophobic at work, however, can cost you a lot.

Nearly every type of job today requires some form of technology, from basic cash registers and calculators to complex instrument panels on heavy machinery. And it’s nearly impossible to find an office-based business that doesn’t rely on computers, email and the internet.

Companies use technology to improve efficiency, communication and worker productivity — all things that impact the bottom line. So, you can bet technology in the workplace isn’t going away anytime soon.

And workers who can’t or won’t adapt risk losing opportunities for advancement, promotions and pay increases.

Why Technology Scares Us and What To Do About It

When it comes to the workplace, some very real fears keep technophobia alive and well.

People didn’t suddenly become technophobic with the invention of smartphones, TiVo or the iPad.

In fact, according to Merriam-Webster, the first known use of the word “technophobia” dates back to 1947.

Back then, personal computers and smartphones weren’t part of daily life, so it’s more likely technophobes were stressed out by microwave ovens and Polaroid cameras.

Today we worry technology will become smarter than us. In fact, Americans are more afraid of technology than they are of flying, of needles and of large volcanic eruptions.

Fear of the Unknown

Humans are wired to question what we don’t know, and it can be particularly tricky to figure out what unfamiliar technology is capable of.

Try this: Take a course, class, seminar or workshop to learn more about the technology around you.

“There are classes in everything from email to iPad and Photoshop at your local high school’s continuing ed program. Many communities provide low cost or free tech classes to seniors,”  Manfred says.

If you want to learn in private, the internet is flooded with instructional articles and videos for every type of tech you can think of.

Alternatively, ask your supervisor or training manager to recommend materials to help you learn your way around the technology in your workplace.

“It’s important to remember that most managers want you to succeed and continue to improve,” notes Irene Koo, editorial fellow at GovLoop.com. “These trainings will have a demonstrable, positive effect for your employer, as well as for your personal development and job performance.”

Need some extra encouragement? Bosses love proactive workers with an eagerness to learn.

Fear of Being Replaced

People today are barraged with news reports that robots are taking jobs away from American workers. That makes it difficult to welcome new office tech with open arms.

Don’t believe the hype. Plenty of jobs will be robot-proof for years to come.

Try this: Shift the way you think about your work and what the future holds.

Higher education consultant Eric Stoller recommends asking yourself questions like, “How do you evolve with your position? If technology can remove an aspect of your job, what will you do with that extra time?”

Fear of Looking Silly

It’s natural to be wary of trying new things for fear of looking incompetent, especially around coworkers.

The good news is that technology changes so fast these days you’ll rarely, if ever, be the only person who lacks the knowledge to use it.

Try this: Look sharp by asking a coworker for help.

Time’s Megan Gibson explains, “People who seek advice are likely to be thought of as more competent, at least by the people they’re asking.”

“Essentially, people are so flattered to be asked for advice that their heads swell a little and they think of themselves as smart,” says Gibson. “That reflects well on the advice-seeker who is in turn believed to be smart enough to recognize their game.”

Being technophobic is no fun, but, fortunately, there’s no downside to working your way past it. In fact, the potential benefits to your job and wellbeing are worth it.

Lisa McGreevy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s not technophobic, but she has a crippling terror of palmetto bugs. Everyone’s afraid of something.

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