Using a transcendental phenomenological methodology, this study offered an in-depth exploration of the question: How do women in formal leadership roles experience the emotion of fear in the workplace? Nine women of various ages and backgrounds participated in semi-structured interviews to discover the textual and structural themes of the experience of fear in the workplace. The research study found that threats to the basic motivational needs of self-esteem, security and, to a lesser extent, affiliation promoted fear. Self-esteem threats included fears of not being competent, not being good enough, not receiving desired recognition, or fear of being taken advantage of. Security threats were often threats to physical safety or incorporated fear of job loss. In terms of affiliation, aspects of belonging and the desire to be a part of the group surfaced. These elements of fear emerged in environments where conflict, uncertainty, and lack of control existed. Conversely, in workplace situations where coresearchers felt confident, trustful and supported or had experience with the situation, fear responses were mitigated. These characteristics in the environment served to decrease the threat and led coresearchers to embrace the circumstances and actively pursue challenges. When engaging in situations which generated a fear response, coresearchers expressed two primary reactions of protection and defense. One method led coresearchers to engage in behaviors of avoidance or aggression. They also may have felt stuck and wanting to give in. Another path took them into a mode of learning and development where they adapted and grew from the experience of fear. Learning and growth occurred for the coresearchers when elements of confidence, experience, support and trust existed within the situation or environment. These structures were foundational in determining the level and intensity of fear experienced. Self-reflection and awareness provided an overarching mechanism that allowed movement from fear into growth and learning. This was accomplished as coresearchers assessed their leadership authenticity, self-identity, internal capacity, and abilities and subsequently adjusted the structures above in an effort to diminish fear and increase growth.
|Subjects||Women's studies; Management; Occupational psychology|
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