Exploring Fears and Phobias in the Workplace


Fears and phobias can be overwhelming in any setting. But when they occur in the workplace, they can significantly impact our quality of work life. While it’s not uncommon to experience some level of anxiety or discomfort at work, some people may suffer from intense and irrational fears that interfere with their ability to function on a day-to-day basis.

Don’t believe that the problem is so serious? LiveCareer’s research discovered some striking statistics, examining the most common fears and how they impact employees and organizations.

Uncovering Workplace Fears and Phobias

Almost 9 in 10 respondents (87%) admit they have fears affecting their professional lives. Fear means “an unpleasant, often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger.”

Additionally, 8 in 10 respondents (76%) report suffering from more severe conditions (phobias). A phobia, in turn, is something more serious. It’s “an exaggerated, usually inexplicable and illogical fear of a particular object, class of objects, or situation.” Also, it can severely affect people’s careers.

And whether it’s the fear of public speaking or the fear of failure, these can significantly impact an individual’s performance and well-being on the job. Let’s face it, we’ve all experienced these at least once in our careers.

Work-related fears are more common than you might expect. Top fears that people need to fight in the daily work environment cover:

  1. making decisions, 
  2. taking responsibility,
  3. public speaking.

Then we can add to the list the fear of getting fired, making a mistake, being disliked by coworkers or bosses, and being unable to handle the workload.

The prevalence of fears and phobias in the work environment often makes it unavoidable to discuss the topic and explain certain behaviors. It might not be easy to open up, but sometimes there is no escape.

Sharing real-life experiences

80% of respondents have discussed their problems with someone at work.

This suggests that there is a level of trust and open communication within the workplace, which can benefit both individuals and the organization. By sharing their problems, employees can receive support and guidance, and employers can gain insights into potential issues and take proactive steps to address them.

If you face similar problems, you may have wondered who is the best person to confide in. Survey participants often chose co-workers (40%), followed by HR teams (31%). Then, there were the boss/manager (26%) and other employees (3%). 

What’s intriguing is why the remaining 20%, or one-fifth of respondents, chose not to disclose information about their fears and phobias. They reported:

  • Feeling ashamed – 21%
  • Fear of lack of trust – 17%
  • Concern their fears will be interpreted as a lack of motivation to work – 15%
  • Fear of being fired – 14%
  • Fear of being denied a pay raise – 14%
  • Fear of discrimination – 10%
  • Fear of being rejected for a promotion – 10%

Although each person has their unique reasons, they are all entirely understandable. This is because we can never predict how others will react to our sharing. These reasons indicate a need for more open and supportive workplace cultures prioritizing mental health and well-being. 

Uncovering the Effects of Fears and Phobias on Work

Fears and phobias can significantly impact an individual’s ability to perform well in the workplace. Whether it’s the fear of public speaking, the fear of failure, or a phobia related to a particular work task or environment, these anxieties can lead to decreased productivity, missed opportunities, and reduced overall job satisfaction. 

8 in 10 research participants admit that their fears and phobias have negatively impacted their careers.

Their fears caused:

  • Frequent absences from work – 37%
  • Missing out on promotions – 35%
  • Being forced to quit a job – 35%
  • Inability to complete projects – 34%
  • Acting withdrawn in group settings – 34%
  • Being unable to apply for some jobs – 32%
  • Missing out on pay raises – 32%
  • Negative impact on overall performance – 31%
  • Poor job satisfaction – 31%

The statistics show that the impact can range from financial, emotional, or motivational issues and even those related to career development. Frequent absences to being forced to quit a job can have serious financial and emotional consequences. At the same time, missing out on promotions, pay raises, and job opportunities can limit an individual’s career growth. All of these consequences are severe.

But there’s more.

8 in 10 respondents would turn down their dream job if it involved facing their biggest fear or phobia. 

While it’s understandable that individuals want to avoid situations that cause them stress or anxiety, turning down a dream job is a missed opportunity for professional and personal growth.

Social Perception of Fears and Phobias

Social perception of fears and phobias plays a significant role in how others perceive individuals with these conditions. Research has shown that individuals with fears and phobias are often perceived negatively. They may be seen as weak, cowardly, or overly emotional, which can lead to social exclusion and discrimination.

74% of respondents admit they have felt discriminated against because of their fears or phobias. 

Moreover, 76% witnessed someone being discriminated against due to their anxieties. 

It is essential to recognize that discrimination towards individuals with fears and phobias can have far-reaching consequences on their mental health and social and professional lives. Especially if we consider that a significant majority of respondents, 80%, believe that having fears and phobias is something to be ashamed of.

This social perception can make it difficult for individuals to seek help and support, worsening their condition. And that’s proven in this study, as 66% of respondents underlined that fear of stigma or discrimination could prevent employees from seeking help.

It is crucial to understand that fears and phobias are not a choice, and individuals with these conditions deserve compassion and understanding. Breaking down the stigmas and misconceptions surrounding fears and phobias can significantly improve the social perception of these conditions. It can help individuals feel more comfortable seeking treatment and support, leading to better mental health outcomes and a more inclusive society.

About the Author

Nina Pączka is a career advisor and job search expert. Her insights, advice, and commentary have been published by Forbes, Fast Company, AZ Big Media, and many other outlets. Nina’s mission is to support job seekers on their path to finding a perfect job.

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