What’s Under My Burqa – Part 1

Typical of a peak hour morning rush in the heart of a central business district I found myself merged into a stream of train commuters leaving the underground station.

Unfamiliar with the area and marching to the beat of travellers, I had no time to assess the steep incline before stepping onto the very long escalator.

Instantly I was overcome with fear. My amygdala triggered an automatic fear response and I was unable to look up, behind or sideways. I felt and believed I would stagger, stumble or fall at any point during the daunting distance. At the same time, I envisioned the people surrounding me to form an invisible wall which helped lessen overwhelm.

With one-third of the length remaining my heart pounded louder. Did I hear right? Clearly behind me was an angry male shouting and hurling abuse. My thoughts were racing, adding further emotional instability. Two people standing directly behind urged I say nothing. Why would I? I was filled with gratitude for their presence and hoped they would shortly assist and guide my stiff frame off the escalator.

“Go back to where you come from!” “You don’t belong here!” “You’re trouble to our country”, the man shouted ferociously at me before he hastened out of sight.

Immediately my mind trawled for justification. This was a prime example of a natural cognitive reaction to the negative impact of media. Clearly I was the recipient of racial vilification in a public space. Just as I had experienced fear on an escalator, I can only assume the intimidating behaviour of a stranger was also fear-based.

What differentiated the back of my head from others was the headgear. No it wasn’t a helmet, crown, wig or hat but a hijab. Where the burqa conceals the face and body, I willingly wear colourful scarves on my head. Face uncovered it was a give away my facial expression expressed fear.

Fear is an instinctive response within individuals as almost everyone is afraid of something such as fear of public speaking, flying or animals. Thankfully fear is a gift that can save our lives when faced with danger. As an emotion the impact on individuals is huge.

Does fear have a place at work? There are a hundred different kinds of fear in the workplace. To label a few; fear of uncertainty, fear of making mistakes, fear of not completing projects within timeframe or budget and fear of change.

If unmanaged, fear can be a destroyer of individuals, teams, communities, organisations, and countries. One in four people reported by the World Health Organisation (WHO) suffer ill-health such as mental disorders, research highlights job stress and work-related ill-health resulting from fear, which has an indirect effect on performance and productivity.

Fear and negativity in any workplace situation can affect one’s mind, emotional state, health and behaviour. According to recent Gallup surveys fear is responsible for 75% of employees’ unhappiness and disengagement in the workplace. Fear can also be blamed for 80% of employees not reaching their full potential.

When employees are not engaged they may experience fear such as racial intolerance, bullying or harassment and the organisation suffers. For instance employee turnover, workplace conflict and legal claim skyrocket. Interested in employee engagement facts? Employee engagement has become the hottest topic in organisations today. According to Forbes leadership survey 80% of employees are considered disengaged costing organisations billions of dollars in lost productivity?

What can be done to eliminate a culture of fear and convert discrimination to one of harmony, collaboration and efficient teams? The team at ConnEQt recommend the Triple ‘A’ approach to improve employee engagement and achieve higher returns for investment of time and effort.

Keen to learn three simple steps to eliminate fear, promote an inclusive culture and ensure happier employees? Next week we expose part 2 of a three-part blog. Watch out for the Triple ‘A’ approach to discover What’s Under My Burqa.

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