The Effects of Fear in a Job Environment

Even though employee fear can be a motivating force, it isn't usually a positive trait in the workplace. Fear often has far-reaching effects, making employees feel anxious and uncertain about their current and future employment. Since workers depend on their jobs for income and other financial benefits, fear on the job can cause financial stress. If you experience work-related fear, it might be the result of economic factors, concerns over job security or mismanagement, but you must make sure those issues don't affect your ability to maintain a safe and productive work environment.

Stress Makes an Impact

Employees who deal with fear often experience stress because they feel like their job status is unknown and unpredictable. Employees who sense a lack of control and don't feel supported by their work environments often experience a significant decline in their health, according to the Behavioral Science & Policy Association. Stressful, fear-inducing situations can "impact the workplace through absences, lowered performance and possible safety concerns." When workplace fears lead to ongoing stress, discuss possible work changes with your supervisor or consult a medical doctor for advice.

Increase Employee Productivity

When employees are feeling afraid at work and don't receive positive, encouraging feedback from their supervisors, they might respond with resistance. The unknown is exacerbated by a lack of communication and information. Resistance might come in the form of reduced productivity, a lack of participation, unwillingness to change and isolation. Managers can help employees deal with fear and resistance by clarifying issues, remaining consistent and patiently guiding them through difficult job-related situations.

Uncertainty Can Be Overwhelming

As employees deal with workplace fear, they often feel overwhelmed by uncertainty. The fear of job loss, pay cuts, layoffs and reduced benefits can make employees questions the future of the company and their long-term career goals. In a struggling economy, job prospects with other companies, organizations and academic institutions are often difficult to find. Communicate openly during times of workplace uncertainty by having regular meetings, corresponding by email and engaging in group projects.

Encourage Communication and Relationship Building

Workplace fear can lead to silence, forcing subordinates to refrain from expressing their views and opinions to managers and other superiors. Some employees are afraid to express their viewpoints because they don't want their bosses to think they're challenging authority or being critical of current practices. As a result, two-way communication breaks down and employees refuse to discuss job-relevant issues.

To help address fear induced silence, a company must experience a cultural change, encouraging employees to communicate openly and honestly with upper management. Managers must assure workers that they won't be criticized or ostracized for sharing their viewpoints. Portland Community College emphasizes that effective communication in the workplace is the heart of teamwork, employee retention and trust-building.