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Poll reveals cost of fear in the workplace

Published on: 4 Apr 2024

Nearly one in three corporate leaders are motivated primarily by fear, contributing to significant losses in productivity across major economies, according to a global survey.

The poll, carried out by leadership consultant Margot Faraci, found that fear is “rampant” in the workplace.

Around 41% of fearful leaders noticed a drop in their team’s performance, while nearly 60% admitted that their direct reports are “unhappy with their job”. Workplace fear contributes to drops in productivity of $36bn in the US, A$2.3bn in Australia and £2.2bn in the UK, Faraci argued. 

She added that fearful leadership impacts productivity in many ways, including thorugh anxiety, imposter syndrome, resentment, lack of work-life balance, fear of being wrong, anger, dissociation, pressure to demonstrate value, unwillingness to receive feedback, hesitancy to speak up, complacency, lack of motivation and ‘quiet quitting’.

Of leaders, 39% strongly agreed that stress can be positively harnessed, with 43% expecting direct reports to handle unexpected situations. However, Faraci warned that leaders risk losing sight of positive leadership styles amid their responsibilities, resulting in micromanagement – with 53% consequently suffering from decision fatigue. 

The study also found that fearful leaders are more common in the US, cited by 36% of respondents, falling to 27% in Australia and 23% in the UK. Some 50% of UK leaders believe productivity declines in a toxic work culture.