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.

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 for a free online assessment. \


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