Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt, and Anger: Resolving FUDA at Work

Here at Atomic, we have a lot of insider terms and quirky acronyms. Employees/coworkers? We call them Atoms. Grabbing lunch with another Atom? We call that a Pair Lunch. But one of my favorite terms we employ is FUDA (pronounced “foo-da”).

FUDA is a catchall term that Atoms use to describe a range of negative feelings. It plays directly on a few of our Atomic values, like Give a Shit and Own it. Here, I’ll break it down for you:






We use the term FUDA because let’s be real, everyone has had negative emotions at work. And it is never easy to know how to broach conversations about negative emotions with your colleagues. In fact, we even have stated, shared beliefs about FUDA:

  1. It is okay and normal for folks to have FUDA.
  2. It is not okay to passively remain in a state of FUDA. Folks should actively work to resolve these feelings.
  3. If you observe a colleague with FUDA, help them try to resolve it.

The best thing about the acronym is that it’s a neutral term that can help folks express their emotions in a professional setting. For example, it can be really hard to say, “I’m angry at you for XYZ” to your manager. Instead, you can say, “I’m feeling some FUDA about this situation.”


Here’s where my “hot take” comes in. I believe that the term FUDA opens the door to a tough conversation (we like to call them Crucial Conversations) with a colleague or mentor. But you can’t stop there. I’ll share an example:

Recently, I was talking with a coworker about a project we were working on. As we worked through the logistics of an unforeseen problem, they said, “You know, I’m feeling some FUDA about this.” 

While I had heard the term used (and had used it myself plenty of times), I didn’t know how to respond. Were they feeling angry about my approach to solving the problem? Were they uncertain about the direction we were taking? 

Instead of jumping to conclusions, I said, “I’m still feeling like a bit of a FUDA newbie. Can you give me a general idea of where you’re falling on the FUDA spectrum? Are you angry or feeling more fear and uncertainty?”

This question opened up a great dialogue between the two of us about how the term, as helpful as it is, can create a bit of confusion or fear (meta-FUDA!) on the receiving end. It turned out that they were feeling uncertain about the direction we were taking with the project and wanted to take a few steps back. 

Fixing FUDA

This incident prompted me to think through the process of identifying, communicating, and resolving FUDA in a way that eliminates confusion for all involved parties. Here’s what I came up with:

  1. Self-identify the FUDA within. For example, say to yourself, “Gee, I’m feeling tenser than normal. And when BillyBob made that rude comment toward me at the end of the meeting, I felt pretty upset and embarrassed.”
  2. Communicate that you have FUDA with the appropriate parties. In person, through Slack, or over email, say, “Hey, I’m feeling some FUDA about our meeting earlier today. Would you mind taking five minutes to chat this afternoon?
  3. Break down the FUDA and get into the meat of what you are feeling. When you meet with them, try saying, “Thanks for talking with me. Earlier, in our meeting, I felt a bit upset and angry when you directed harsh feedback toward me in front of our client. I know that you likely weren’t intending the feedback to sting, but it did. Is there a way that we could communicate differently in the future?”

Cultural Implications

You might be thinking, is this necessary? Isn’t this why you guys use an acronym in the first place, to avoid jumping into the deep end of the feelings pool at work?

Well, the more I’ve learned about communication in the workplace, the more I opt to communicate openly with my colleagues. (Open communication, by the way, is professional, kind, and calm). Each person comes from a different cultural background and has a different way of understanding and approaching situations. So, for example, while it may have been obvious to my colleague that they were not angry at me, the power difference in our relationship meant I couldn’t tell exactly what they were feeling.

As your team grows and changes, the cultural backgrounds of the folks you work with will change, too. When you identify and communicate not only that you have FUDA but the meat of your FUDA, folks are much more likely to understand and be able to make actionable changes. Negative emotions are likely to resolve faster, and your relationship with your colleagues might improve, too! So try FUDA out with your team and take it to the next level by digging into the core of what you’re trying to communicate. 

How do you talk about unpleasant feelings at work? Does your organization use fun acronyms like FUDA? Share them in the comments below!