What employees fear most at work

PHOTO: What employees fear most at work

Stress is a feeling most commonly associated with work, and some industries are known to be more pressurising than others.

Nevertheless, the fear of failing to perform well or failing to meet expectations at work can cause for high levels of anxiety among many people regardless of industry.

In a new book called Becoming a Better Boss, London School of Business management expert Professor Julian Birkinshaw says that employees tend to experience a variety of fears. These fears can range from the basic fear of losing one's job, to a more complex fear such as that of not having enough room for personal development in the company.

To become a better boss, managers need to understand the fears which motivate or hinder their employees at work.

7 deadly sins of management

  • "A greedy boss pursues wealth, status and growth to get himself noticed," Professor Birkinshaw says.
  • "In short, he is an empire builder, and we don't have to look far to find examples of empire-building bosses".
  • Lust applies to bosses who seek vanity projects to take on.
  • Vanity projects are those investments or acquisitions that make no sense but "play to the manager's desires," he says.
  • Wrath or anger is one of the most commonly committed sins.
  • "We see this at all levels in the hierarchy - my first boss would turn bright red and start shaking before he yelled at some poor soul for failing to debug a piece of software properly," Birkinshaw says in the book.
  • Gluttony may refer to an uncontrollable obsession of food in everyday life, but in business, it applies to managers who put too much on their plates.
  • "He needs to get involved in decisions, he needs to be continuously updated, he never rests," the management expert explains. In other words, the glutton boss micromanages, and according to Birkinshaw, have a tendency to "steal" your decisions or cause problems in the decision making process.
  • Pride can be healthy but becomes dangerous when someone overestimates his/her own abilities.
    Recent corporate crises like that of Nokia, BP and Toyota show that pride goes before a fall.
  • Birkinshaw says that the case of Enron's fall is a good example. Enron executives "liked to think of themselves as the 'smartest guys in the room' and they shortened the company's vision from becoming the 'world's leading energy company' to the 'world's leading company'".
  • Envy occurs when bosses take credit for other people's work.
  • Envy can also appear in the forms of choosing not to promote someone capable for fear of competition, or withholding important information from the team so he/she can stay ahead.

Birkinshaw used the concept of a 'Hierarchy of fears' to explain the four kinds of fears employees might have at the workplace.

The first level of fear is caused by an insecurity about one's job. This basic level of fear is caused by a 'fear of redundancy' or a 'concern with excessive turbulence and change', Birkinshaw explains.

The second level of fear stems from a 'need for affiliation to a group', which he says is linked to two other fears - the concern of not fitting in with others, and the frustration with ineffective practices which compromise the quality of one's working environment.

The third level of fear arises from a 'need for personal achievement', which is linked to fears such as not being able to meet high expectations; of looking incompetent; and an anticipation of high levels of stress caused by the nature of the work.

In the highest level of fear, employees find that they need more 'self-actualisation', which is a fear of the 'lack of opportunities for personal development', Birkinshaw says.

According to a survey done by Birkinshaw, employees were most fearful of losing their jobs as well as the lack of opportunities for personal advancement at work.

When dealing with employees, bosses should be aware that everyone in a team has different concerns and that it is impossible for bosses to meet all their employees' needs at the workplace, he says. What an employer must do, is to understand what the most common fears are and how many of these needs can and should be satisfied.


Julian Birkinshaw's Becoming a Better Boss is now in bookstores. Check out http://josseybassbusiness.com/assessments for a free online assessment.

- See more at: http://business.asiaone.com/career/ask/your-boss-guilty-these-7-deadly-sins#sthash.yfsdf7gF.dpuf

Julian Birkinshaw's Becoming a Better Boss is now in bookstores. Check out http://josseybassbusiness.com/assessments for a free online assessment.

6 lines your boss should never cross

  • Salaries and bonuses are private and confidential information; your colleagues do not know how much you're paid.
  • If your boss accidentally reveals such information, it can lead to resentment, envy or other forms of negative emotions among colleagues.
  • This is a form of workplace abuse.
  • Even if you have made a grave mistake, a good boss should talk to you in private in a civil tone.
  • Supervisors should always lay down attainable tasks for employees and provide them with the appropriate resources.
  • If your supervisor tasks you with an impossible task, it is important to discuss and communicate expectations to each other.
  • Details of personal lives, regardless of whose, should always be kept out of the office.
  • If you find your boss talking about such things, change the subject back to work. This goes both ways; you should also keep your personal life out of the office.
  • Comments about gender, physical appearance or anything else that makes one blush is a total no-no.
  • This borders on the edge of sexual harassment at the workplace.
  • 6. Implying that sex, race, age or religion is a factor in work performance These factors do not affect one's job ability at all.
  • This is workplace discrimination at its worst.

9 things your boss should never say to you

  • Commands and orders aren't usually effective unless the worker is in a very regimental organisation such as the army.
  • Good bosses lead by example and motivate their workers. This way, they cultivate loyalty and drive in their workers.
  • Supervisors should recognise that employees are the ones producing profits and should never use such a tone with them.
  • Bosses should reward employees according to their hard work, instead of comparing what other companies are giving their employees.
  • Time spent in office may be relevant, but no supervisor should make an employee spend too much time in the office environment. This is especially so when the employee may be more productive working from home outside of office hours.
  • While women do have benefits such as child-care leave or maternity leave, men also have a role to play in raising their children. If a company allocates rewards based on gender, something is not quite right.
  • Good bosses should never discriminate, especially in matters like religion, gender, political affiliation or race.
  • Managing an organisation's budget is important, but not if unnecessary spending is cutting into employees' salaries and bonuses.
  • Managers should lead by example e.g. taking a salary cut together with the rest of the employees.
  • One of the deadliest phrases for a supervisor to say to an employee, this shows a supervisor's lack of concern for his employees' work.
  • Listening to an employee for a moment or two can make lots of difference, especially when the employee is just feeling frustrated. It also builds up an employee's loyalty and morale, making him / her a more productive worker.
  • This merely shows an employee that his / her supervisor is entrenched in a fixed mindset and is unwilling to compromise.
  • Instead, bosses should say,
  • Instead of lambasting a worker straight in the face, a supervisor should think about whether expectations have been communicated clearly to the employee.
  • Supervisors should also ensure that employees are given sufficient resources, budget and support to complete the tasks properly.
  • Supervisors should never resort to abuse and mean words to speak to employees.
  • Instead, bosses should always speak politely and with civility. Better yet, point out to the employee what he or she is doing wrong.