Fear of Missing Out

You can opt out of a meeting, your presence is not essential, yet you join

You take a day off to de-stress… but, you keep thinking about meetings you are missing.. worse still, join few meetings.

You are already behind schedule on most of your deliverables, yet when a new project comes up, you raise your hand

You want to be CCd on every mail, just in case you miss out a critical piece of information.

It happens in personal life as well… I once remember attending a party with fever (pre-COVID times)… just because I didn’t want to miss the gossip or miss out on relationships (all in my mind!!).

Fear of Missing or FOMO is real. COVID induced remote working is only making it worse in office context

“What if I miss a critical piece of information important for my work?”

“What if my boss feels I haven’t contributed enough?”

“What if someone takes all the credit?”

“What if I miss good opportunities?”

And so on and so forth…..

While in the past, we could have ignored FOMO, given the uncertain times and minimal face-to-face interactions, its worth paying attention to. Two reasons:

One, it impacts employee well-being – On that one day you took leave to de-stress, instead of relaxing, you kept worrying about work. The low level stress, anxiety – even while on a well-deserved short break… its like being neither here nor there.

Second, it impacts productivity – you spend extra hours catching up with work which might have been leveraged for something more productive…thus impacting not just individual, but team and organization productivity.

What’s at the core FOMO? – As the name suggests, its fear and insecurity.

Individuals should certainly take actions at their level for overcoming FOMO, example: being confident of their worth and contribution, developing ability to let go.

However, organization culture, especially managers through their actions can either play FOMO up or down!

Here are few considerations for managers:

1. Meeting participation – invite only those who are needed / essential for the meeting. Be transparent about why someone is invited or not invited – to avoid FOMO of not being invited.

2. Allocation of work – Be careful about not allocating important work or tasks only to those present in the meeting / or office – if its hybrid working

3. Appreciation – to those who contributed rather than who is present

4. Credit acknowledgment – encouraging members to share credit, not to hoard it

5. Find ways to minimize information asymmetry – everyone has the information they need

Many of these might seem obvious – which manager is foolish not to do these elementary things? Well, they are not that elementary after all!

As managers, when we reflect honestly.. we would realize that we have missed one or more aspects – albeit unconsciously. Not withstanding the intent, the impact remains the same! FOMO in people..And efforts of a good manager should be – am I playing up or down?

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