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How Fear Can Help You Increase Work Productivity



Can fear make people more productive? Some recent studies and research have shown this to be true. Having said that, the method to increase productivity may have some negative side effects if implemented.

Keep reading if you want to know why scaring someone can get them to work harder – and why it might not be the best of ideas.






Can Being Afraid Really Help You Perform Better?


How Fear Increases Work Productivity

Here’s a look at some of the ways that being afraid can make people work harder.

  • Economy – The biggest reason fear works is because of the state of the economy around the world currently. Many people feel they’re lucky to have a job – any job. Even if they hate going to work, they take this as a part of life and something that must be done.

  • Other Workers – When people are fired for not working hard enough, it can have a big effect on how hard other people work. Once a culture of fear has invaded a workplace, it can be hard to disperse. And this can have long-lasting negative effects.

  • Fear of the Unknown – Not having a job in the current employment market can be a scary thing. When people with college degrees and many years of experience are having problems finding a job, people are more loathe to lose the job they have and face the unknown.

fear of the unknown picture quote


Why Productivity Through Fear is Bad

Here’s a look at why this might not be a good thing in the long-term.

  • Morale – One of the biggest problems with increased production via fear is that it can be very bad for morale. While production may increase, the quality may be missing. When morale of workers is low, it can affect a company’s ability to operate.

  • Burnout – And when morale becomes too low, burnout is a very real problem. When this happens, productivity can go through the floor – and stay there for a while which can really affect your bottom line.

  • Negative Image – If a company uses tactics of fear to get their workers to work harder – either overtly or on the sly – word can quickly spread, harming the company’s public image. With the Internet, this bad publicity can spread quickly and have a lasting effect on a brand.

As you can see, even if people are working harder because they are afraid, it might not be the best thing in the world for everyone involved. From the workers themselves – who may face burnout – to the employers – who may have quality control issues – fear can do more harm than good.

What do you think? Do you work harder because you’re afraid of losing your job?

Leave a comment below – anonymously if you want.



  1. Ola Rybacka

    Sep 27, 2017 at 5:36 am

    Dear John,
    I’m happy to inform you that this post is featured in the recent part of TimeCamp’s weekly Productivity Articles roundup! Find “Best Productivity Articles Last Week: Tips, Tricks, and Habits! 24/9/17” on
    Thank you for sharing these excellent productivity and time management tips!
    Ola Rybacka, SM Manager at TimeCamp

  2. Emmanuel

    Jul 30, 2014 at 6:50 am

    Yes I work hard because of fear of being fired.

  3. Naomi@businessstart-ups

    Feb 6, 2014 at 1:46 pm

    Hi John,

    What ever happened to the saying “a happy worker, is a good worker”.

    Getting staff to work in fear is ludicrous, mean and bad leadership.

    Thanks for the great read


  4. Anonymous

    Jan 6, 2014 at 9:59 pm

    To expound a bit on the last comment, while fear/punishment are not good motivators in the long-run, accountability is important. Expectations must be clear and understood, and managers should coach toward improvement, i.e., letting employees know where performance exceeds or falls short, and training for improvement where needed. Managers should themselves be accountable for their reports’ performance and improvement.

  5. Anonymous

    Nov 6, 2013 at 2:06 pm

    Fear is only ever a short-term motivator and is a tool only used by the emotionally unintelligent. Incentivising good practice is the best motivator, not threatening to punish. This is not so well understood in the American model of business capitalism.

  6. Travis McCormick

    Nov 3, 2013 at 1:08 pm

    I believe working hard is all apart of and individuals work ethic and morals. Regardless of the current employee turnover rate, when a job needs to be done it should be done with full effort. I have never been afraid of losing a job, I can get a new one. But losing your work ethic and morals is something too valuable to lose.

  7. Amjed

    Nov 1, 2013 at 9:40 pm

    In any job that I worked in, I work very hard because I hate to give somebody the right to fuss on me or look down upon me. From working hard I get many privileges for example: I get off days whenever I ask to.

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