Overcoming the Fear Factor

Fear, at a basic physiological level, is the perception (thought or assumption) that an external threat to one’s well being exists. This in turn mobilizes the body’s “fight or flight” mechanism. The body’s fight or flight response is activated by the production of large amounts of the hormone Cortisol (the body’s stress hormone). When experiencing a fear response, people are naturally more likely to exhibit defensive or aggressive behavior to release the tension. Frequently it is misplaced.

In short, we go into hyper-emotional response, which exaggerates the fear to see the worst-case scenario, and a threat. This response may or may not have validity. In many cases, fear is our imagination on steroids.


The symptoms of people experiencing fear responses may be subtle or extreme. Some examples of fear behavior in the workplace include the following, and the possible reasons:

“Us versus them” talk.

Fear of the other.

Silence during meetings, but widespread talk outside of meetings.

Insecurity about expressing an opinion in public for fear of judgment or ridicule.

Resistance to new ideas.

I could fail, and then I’d look ridiculous.

Lowered productivity, increased mistakes/waste.

Inability to perform. Low self-esteem, morale.

Increased absences and tardiness.

Fear of admitting I hate my job. Unwilling to make a change.

Defensiveness regarding performance appraisal.

Insecurity about role or status. Fear of loss

Reluctance to admit mistakes.

Fear of failure and needs to be right.

Tendency to blame the environment or others for a host of issues.

Not taking responsibility for fear of being judged.

Negative attitudes regarding the organization and/or its customers.

See above.

Indecisiveness or reluctance to take risks.

Fear of failure.

Denial of tensions and conflicts which are at or near the surface.

Fear of confrontation.

There are many things that can trigger our fear response, and frequently they are related to fundamental emotional reactions. These include fear of loss, abandonment, rejection, humiliation and the fear of failure.

Next time your fear shows up, ask yourself is it real or imagined? Do I have empirical evidence that the outcome from a certain situation will be in the negative?

By examining your reaction to assumptions and behaviors that have triggered a defensive, fearful response, you are consciously choosing to communicate in a more positive, proactive manner. By changing how you react to events in your life, you can become more open, more communicative, more confident, and more collaborative in all your approach to your work, family and life in general.

Being fearless is not the absence of fear, but the choices and decisions we make when fear shows up in our lives. Remember, fear for the most part is our overactive imagination at work.

Be Fearless: See Where It Gets You!!!