Do You Work in Fear?


Do you work in fear? Employees cannot do their best work when they are worried about their future, are discouraged from thinking for themselves, aren’t respected for their recommendations, don’t feel in control of their destinies, or are treated like children. People can’t do their best work when they feel that every decision will be scrutinized and second-guessed, and every mistake will be ridiculed. This lack of confidence causes employees to waste more time trying to impress people internally than they spend getting their job done; to play Monday-morning quarterback and second-guess each other rather than making innovative suggestions.

Confidence and security increase employee efficiency and effectiveness. Fear and insecurity have the opposite effect: They cause employees to take on more and more work, trying to look busy so they won’t get fired (and then they do it poorly because they don’t have enough time to do it all well— if at all). When this happens, employees spend their time on things they know well, not because these things are priorities but because they feel secure doing them. This leads employees to ignore problems, waiting for them to go away rather than fixing them, and then to look for someone else to blame when the problems eventually surface. Sound familiar? If so, promise yourself to help bring about change.

Additional Reading:
The Destructive Force of Fear

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  1. Skip Prichard says

    Frank, I’m convinced that fear is crippling more organizations than I ever dreamed possible. With unemployment as high as it is, fear is naturally higher than in a robust economy. For individuals, I say face your fear–write it down, and then make a plan of action. If you are consistently working in a way that boosts your own skills, you will end up in a more secure place.

    • Frank Sonnenberg says

      Hi Skip.

      I agree. Employees today feel added pressure in several ways. First, they increasingly have to do more with less. Second, employees may feel expendable if they ever do miss a beat. The key is to remain focused and find ways to add value to the organization every day.

      Have a great day!


  2. anna says

    what you have said is a without any doubt a true – it is rather a typical human to be worried about future thse times. However, very often, the fear comes along with lack of knowlegde. Peple that are aware of their knowledge in the subject matter field their work, can peacefully work on theit daily duties & at the same thoink about innovation and be assured about the value they are for the company. As you said they ingore problems or subjects they do not uderstand as they are lacking tools/knowledge to solve them – not only the fear is to be blamed for it.

    • Frank Sonnenberg says

      Hi Anna

      Some of the fear that people experience is controllable. For example, If you’re on top of your game you’d think management would appreciate and reward your contribution. On the other hand, some leaders make erratic decisions in a tough economy and fail to provide rationale for their actions. This contributes to fear because the future is unpredictable.

      Have a great day!

  3. RS Weller says


    Great article and thoughts. Unfortunately, this is now a management style. It is a crippling environment. It cloaks you in dread from the moment the alarm goes off announcing another workday. Fear poisons the workplace and pits each employee against the other. Each personal interaction is examined for its hidden agenda or meaning.

    I could go on, but you have the major problems with this ineffective and unproductive method of management people.

    ear poison

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