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Breaking the Fear Barrier

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Breaking the Fear Barrier

How Fear Destroys Companies from the Inside Out and What to Do About It

Gallup Press,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

It’s tough to motivate employees who feel like prisoners when they’re at work.

Editorial Rating



  • Applicable


Fear rules the business world. Many employees are scared of losing their entitlements, such as status, power, money and influence. To preserve these assets, they create internal “barriers” that render their companies inefficient and unproductive. Tom Rieger – an organizational expert for the Gallup Inc. performance management consultancy – examines the destructive effect of fear within firms and discusses what executives can do to combat it. He finds that fearful people see working for their companies as akin to being in prison – hardly the setting for enthusiasm and productivity. Rieger offers pleasant, if bland, reading. He does a good job of explaining fear-based issues though you may wish he’d offered even more practical, how-to strategies for overcoming the problems he identifies. getAbstract recommends this thoughtful treatise to managers who want their employees to feel excited about their jobs, not afraid of them.


Fear Rules

One study shows that 50% of employees in the US feel that their companies treat them like prisoners. These workers feel afraid, and that fear can make them a little nuts. Take the company where executives defined their status by the number of ceiling tiles in their offices. One executive complained so much that his ceiling was smaller than everyone else’s that the company rebuilt every office on his floor. The complaining executive ended up with one additional row of tiles.

Fear of loss of status, power, money or influence causes even worse business problems every day. The Gallup Inc. research consultancy investigated about a dozen organizations that reported serious problems, including increased turnover, falling employee morale and unhappy customers. These disparate operations included a bank, a manufacturer, a hospital and a retail store. Their particular problems varied, but common threads emerged.

Each one of these firms operated strategically, executed well and tried to meet its employees’ needs. Yet limiting factors – or “barriers” – within each structure interfered with progress, efficiency and profitability. No matter how individual organizations...

About the Author

Tom Rieger, a senior practice expert with the research-based consultantcy Gallup Inc., develops frameworks that apply behavioral economic principles to complex organizational problems.

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