Let Go of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) at Work

Let Go of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) at Work

By Melissa Gratias


The word FOMO was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2013. The Fear of Missing Out is the uneasy feeling, sometimes escalating to an all-consuming fear, that your peers are doing something better than you, or that they have something you desperately want.

Often, FOMO is assigned exclusively to young people who consume social media. And, us older, wiser, well-employed adults look down on them for it. Until…

– A childhood friend becomes an incredibly successful entrepreneur.
– Someone we hired gets promoted to a level above us.
– We look at our Facebook feed and feel glum rather than happy.

Then, we realize that FOMO is just jealousy with a lovely new hairdo. Jealousy has been around since long before 2013. And, jealousy is not limited to young people consuming social media.

How does FOMO affect us at work?

We believe that most success is “overnight success”

I attended a small business conference in my hometown of Savannah, GA in 2015 where the owner of a successful consumer products company spoke to the attendees. I am paraphrasing his opening line: “We are a 25-year overnight success story!”

He then went on to describe the failures, heartbreaks, long hours, and eventual success that marked his career. His point was a good one, though. The public was not watching him during the dark years. Journalists didn’t write articles on his financial woes and sleepless nights. People started paying attention when he had something “worthy” to declare. Thus, his success appears to be instant.

So, the first thing we must remember when FOMO strikes is that everyone has dark times. Success is rarely a result of effortless magic.

We choose an unproductive response to our FOMO

FOMO comes from the same place as a desire to set goals. We perceive a gap between where we are and where we want to be. So, one way to positively handle our FOMO is to set a specific goal to challenge ourselves to bridge the gap. An unproductive response would be to wallow in self-pity, or worse, to engage in efforts to sabotage the targets of our jealousy.

We do EVERYTHING in order to miss NOTHING

A logical, if unsustainable, response to FOMO is to say “Yes” to every task, project, or responsibility that even tangentially comes our way. We may think, “Well, I don’t want to miss an opportunity, so I’ll just do it all!”  And, slowly but surely, we end up overscheduled and overwhelmed. (This is what happened to Seraphina in my new release Seraphina Does Everything!)

Life Without FOMO

FOMO, while exacerbated by social media, is not new. Social comparison and its impacts have been around forever. We evaluate ourselves against external standards. And few people, regardless of age or level of success, are immune. Acknowledging the issue is the first step.

“Hello, my name is Melissa, and I fall victim to FOMO.”


– Set goals
– Choose mindfulness
– Say “No” appropriately

And, then get ready for your next “overnight” success.


Dr. Melissa Gratias is a productivity expert, coach, and speaker. Her new book, Seraphina Does Everything!, is available now.