Fear of not being liked.
We are social animals. We want to get along. Workplaces where people enjoy each others’ company are more likely to have lower absenteeism, lower turnover, less stress. Leaders know “you can’t please everyone.” It comes with being a leader.
Fear of making the wrong choice.
This “fear” may even be prevalent at the top levels of management where ambiguity often rules. A 2003 Financial Times article described a two year study of eight senior executives: “researchers unearthed many anxieties among their subjects: fear of inadequacy in the job, of not knowing enough, of losing their power base, of being set adrift by those above them or engulfed by the demands of those below them.”
Fear of drawing negative attention.
In a review of fear in the workplace, Kish-Gephart, Detert, Trevino, and Edmondson (2009) discussed “deliberative defensive silence.” We remain silent to protect ourselves from real or perceived harm. A conscious, intentional decision. We assess the risk and judge the risk of action too great. This is a fear whistleblowers overcome.
Fear of overreaching. Fear of being judged.
These may be related to the fear of appearing incompetent. Tomkiewicz, Bass, and Vaicys (2005) using the Fear of Appearing Incompetent scale found no difference overall between the 200 men and women in their study.
Fear of failure.
And perhaps fear of success. Fear of failure and fear of success are highly related. Some studies show differences between men and women. Others do not. Overall fear of failure appears to have a larger impact on performance than fear of success. Studying nearly 700 athletes, André and Metzler (2011) found men had more negative concerns relating to fear of success than did women.
And the holy trinity of fear: the fear of being a bad mother/wife/daughter.
Interrole conflict is a great source of stress. Large cultural and individual differences here. Work-life is rarely in balance. It is not a scale. It is a matter of choices and situations. If these conflicts have to exist, they should apply equally to men and women – but in our culture today they probably do not. Supportive institutional policies can help here as well as supportive work norms.
To quote Marti MacGibbon, “Courage is not the absence of fear, it is resistance to fear.”
André, N., & Metzler, J. N. (2011). Gender differences in fear of success: A preliminary validation of the Performance Success Threat Appraisal Inventory. Psychology of Sport & Exercise, 12(4), 415-422.
Kish-Gephart, J. J., Detert, J. R., Trevino, L. k., & Edmondson, A. C. (2009). Silenced by fear: The nature, sources, and consequences of fear at work. Research in Organizational Behavior, 29, 163-193.
MacGibbon, M. (2011, January). Never give in to fear. SuperVision, 72 (1), 9-10.
Maitland, A. (2003, Oct 14). Leadership and the fear of high-flying. Financial Times, 15.
Tomkiewicz, J., Bass, K., & Vaicys, C. (2005). Comparing fear of success and fear of appearing incompetent among African Americans' and Whites' business candidates. Equal Opportunities International, 24 (2), 19-29.
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