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The antecedents and consequences of fear at work

Research output: Contribution in Book/Report/Proceedings - With ISBN/ISSNChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review



Fear is the mind-killer. Frank Herbert, Dune (1965) Despite being identified as a pervasive emotion in the modern workplace (Pfeffer & Sutton, 2000), fear oddly has not received a corresponding amount of attention among management researchers. In fact, Kish-Gephart, Detert, Treviño, and Edmondson (2009, p. 163) observe that we still have much to learn about the nature of fear in workplace settings, including “what it is, how and why it is experienced, and to what effects.” Bennis (1966) notes further that fear has always been a part of the work environment (see also Connelly & Turner, 2018), but it remains an especially important issue in today’s workplaces because of the effects of rapid and ongoing organizational change, which are often linked to uncertain outcomes (Bordia, Hobman, Jones, Gallois, & Callan, 2004; Tiedens & Linton, 2001). Our aim in this chapter is to provide an overview of fear (arising from uncertainty) as a discrete emotion, to identify stimuli that may trigger fear at work, and to identify the potential positive and negative outcomes that can be linked to employees’ fear. We also outline potential pathways for future research on fear of uncertainty in the workplace.