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Employees Fear Making Phone Calls in Front of Co-workers

There's a client emergency that requires a quick response, and your manager tells you to pick up the phone and call the client right away.

Suddenly, you're seized with fear. Your palms start to sweat. Your heart begins to pound. You have to make a phone call in front of your co-workers and it's freaking you out!

Hey, we all have our personal hang ups, right? All hail the scariest sound in corporate America.

You are not alone: a new survey of British office workers by Powwownow finds that having to make a phone call in front of co-workers is our second-biggest fear at work!

Calling Out a Workplace Problem
Our biggest fear, in case you're curious, is having to give a co-worker negative feedback, which we find a way to phone in somehow. But having to actually pick up the phone in front of our co-workers to talk to a real, live working professional on the other end? So, so scary.

More than one-third of employees surveyed (36%) find the prospect of talking on the phone in front of co-workers downright, utterly frightening. In fact, many of the employees surveyed say they have, shall we say, "forgotten" to make a past call because it scared them so damn much.

What is going on here? Well, many employees don't need to call anyone anymore. Why call when we can text? Sometimes, however, we have to pick up the phone to close the deal, to talk down an angry client, and, in general, to phone in our humanity. If we don't use our phone skills, we will lose them.

And that is exactly what is happening. We freak out, get on the phone and proceed to say in a meek, breathy voice:

Hi? I'm Chris? Uh, I'm looking for Dave? No, I don't, like, remember his last name, but he's in marketing? Um. I'm, I'm, calling from ABC Company? I'm, you know, needing to talk to him about his stuff, I mean, like, his [pause] account? That I'm working on...yes, yes -- oh, what? -- oh, um -- no, sorry, you go ahead. Um, yes. Yes, I'll...hold?


Ugh. Our worst fears are realized knowing our co-workers could hear every word we just attempted to say. But it's not over. No, not yet. Now we have to leave a voice mail!

Our Work-related Hang Up
There will be situations where we need to make a work-related phone call in front of our co-workers, because the matter at hand requires it. Shudder. So how can we be prepared for these moments when they strike?

1. Write a script. If making a phone call has you in knots, find a Post-It Note. Write the main thing you need to convey in the phone call, in ten words or less. Aim for conciseness. Or write the script in your head instead. This step forces you to think about the main point of your call before calling, which adds to your comfort level.

2. Rehearse your intro. Run through your script a time or two in your head. When you can get to the main point quickly, you're ready to call.

3. Give your co-workers a head's up. You might say, "I need to make a call" to alert your teammates to your impending -- and incredibly rare -- phone chatter. It can be a nice thing to do in a very quiet work area. It can also be a way to warm up your voice before you make the call.

4. Get to the point. A receptionist just wants to know where to direct you, so keep it brief. If you get voice mail, get to the main point quickly and leave a phone number.

5. Speak clearly and confidently. Take a deep breath and exhale as the line rings. Inhale before you begin speaking, and speak from your diaphragm to put volume behind your words. No uptalk!

6. Smile while you talk. Smiling while you talk on the phone changes your tone of voice, which can come in handy if you're delivering not-so-good news. Try it yourself. Talk while smiling, then talk while frowning. Hear the difference in your voice?

7. Just keep going. You forget a word, you mispronounce a word, you trip over your words. It happens to all of us on the phone! Just keep going. Start over if you must. A sense of humor helps.

Now go pick up the phone -- in front of all your teammates, yikes! -- and tell the client that there is a problem. Even though it's bad news, the client will appreciate hearing it from a real, live human being for a change. Don't worry, you can go back to hiding behind emails and texts when you're done.


  1. Great advice! Also - give the other person an opportunity to talk - often they can 'lead' the call and 'put to bed' a lot of the fears you describe.


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