At Work

The Costly Consequences of Fear in the Workplace

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Do you think fear has consequences? What are the consequences of fear at work?

To some degree, the consequences of fear depend on the type of fear. But, generally, we need to be careful not to lie to ourselves about fear.

It’s easy to believe that we can be alone with our thoughts—that our fears are private and locked away in our gray matter.

Humans are never alone with their thoughts. God is ever present in them. He knows every thought that we—and everyone else—has and will ever have.

We aren’t alone with our fears for another reason, too: Our fears drive our behavior.

If we are afraid of disappointing someone, we will make choices to minimize disappointment.

If we’re afraid of change, we will make choices that will minimize change.

Our actions sometimes say a lot about our fears. Fears have consequences because we act upon our fears and our actions have consequences.

Consider the consequences stemming from the fear of speaking up and the fear of losing control.

The Fear of Speaking Up

When we are struck by a fear of speaking up, what are the consequences to you and the organization?

  • The organization doesn’t benefit from your insight
  • People will not know that you have knowledge about the subject and will not go to you in the future for help—so the organization will not perpetually benefit from your insight
  • You might be perceived as not caring very much or not being passionate about your work
  • If you speak up, you might say something that isn’t relevant or right—so by not speaking up, you lose the opportunity to learn and grow

These consequences multiply over time. You may wonder why people don’t listen to you or pay attention to your ideas, and bitterness may creep in.

The Fear of Losing Control

What are the consequences of the fear of losing control?

  • It can have the exact opposite impact as the fear of speaking up. In your desire to control things, you may wind up speaking too much. You may perpetually “sell” your ideas to the point that no one listens or respects you.
  • By focusing on your own control rather than the bigger picture, you may be perceived as having a personal agenda that doesn’t align with the organization’s goals and objectives
  • You might be perceived as manipulative, inflexible, and pushy, or perhaps territorial

The Gospel in All of This Talk about Fear

Fears are real and we all have them. We can kid ourselves that our fears are private and have no external consequences. But that’s not the case.

That’s not the way God made things. Fear is the path to less flourishing, not just for the one who fears, but for everyone else around that person.

Where’s the gospel in all of this?

  • Jesus has got us. He knows we’re frail and fearful. He addresses it dozens of times in scripture. There is no condemnation (even for our fears) for those who are in Christ.
  • We’re never alone in our thoughts and fears. Praise God! We have no secrets. Nothing to hide. God knows everything before we come to him in prayer. There’s no need for pretense.
  • Fears and striving will one day cease. We can look forward to a day when there will be no more fear and anxiety.

Jesus come quickly!

Editor’s Note: On “Flashback Friday,” we take a look at some of IFWE’s former posts that are worth revisiting. This post was previously published on Apr. 17, 2015. 

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