A C-Level Nightmare – Fear in the Workplace

By Heather Campbell

With Halloween upon us, our thoughts turn to things that go bump in the night and what may be lurking in the shadows at the bottom of the garden. We all like to get the adrenaline flowing with a scary movie or spooking the kids, all done with the knowledge that we are secure in our homes and the witch next door is not real…

Well, for some of your employees, every day at work holds as much fear as Hallowe’en. Fear of losing their job or an overriding desire to be seen to succeed can outweigh the need to do the job correctly and tell the boss how things really are. This becomes cyclical and ultimately performance will suffer.

At this point in the article, you are starting to dismiss the notion that a culture of fear exists in your organisation.  But – whether it is driven unintentionally from the top or from trade pressures – your people are fearful of losing their jobs, not gaining new clients, embracing new technology; all while managing the work/life balance.

How deep-rooted is this fear and what impact does it have on productivity? We set out to find out with our recent survey and here are just some of the scary results:

The following results were collected via an online survey carried out from February to April 2015.

How Prevalent Is Fear In Organisations?

We all know about the high-profile cases where the presence and impact of fear was all too evident and you may believe that such things could not happen in your orgainsation. But based on the results of this survey, it is more likely that fear is present than that it isn’t.

Q. We asked if respondents believed that fear is present in their organisations.


Two-thirds of survey respondents said that fear is either always or frequently present in their organisation. No-one said it doesn’t exist.

What Impact Does Fear Have?

Chances are that, as a result of fear in your organisation, you don’t really know what’s going on. Fifty-four percent of respondents in this survey said they are not fully open with senior leaders about business issues.

Q. We asked respondents to comment on the ways in which fear inhibits their performance.


As well as inhibiting feedback, openness and challenge, it is also apparent that fear is preventing people suggesting and implementing business change.

Next Steps

If fear is not immediately evident in your organisation, surfacing it using more formal sources of exploration such as surveys and focus groups can be invaluable.

How do we know this? Well, we work with organisations around the globe, helping them to achieve better performance through better communication. Our recent survey highlights some frightening trends and we wanted to share the results.

If you’re ready to find out more about the impact of fear in your organisation, download the full survey and results in the White Paper: Fear In the Workplace.

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