The Pitfalls of Fear-Based Motivation in the Workplace

About this essay

If you remember the movie Office Space, you might remember this great line where Peter (the guy trying to get fired) says “If you motivate people by fear, they will do just enough to get by and not get fired.

This is the saddest of all motivational factors. Fear of rejection, fear of loss of respect, loss of money and country club status. It’s related to the above motivations, but from a different perspective. People who are motivated by fear are motivated from a position of having made it and are afraid of losing it.

Its real difference is in its motivational power.

Fear can be a strong motivator. . It’s one of the oldest forms of motivation and one of the most powerful…in certain situations. Most fears today are intangible fears. They are extremely powerful for the very reason that they are hard to find.

Humans react to fear or threat in many ways, but those reactions can usually be divided up into the two categories of Fight or Flight.

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That is to say that when people are threatened they will either attack the threat or run away from it. This of course can be done physically or mentally.

As a tool to motivate people, fear has many disadvantages. Fear based motivation causes resentment resistance and revenge. It is seen for what it is, an attack. By its very nature, fear is not sustaining or sustainable without negative consequences.

People who are motivated by fear will seek ways to extricate themselves from the situation that causes the fear.

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This will not always be done by fulfilling the desire of the ‘motivator’.

Threatening someone that they will be fired if they do not do their job correctly may have an impact upon the person causing them to try to improve their performance. However, that motivation is based on external forces and it requires that someone always be there to impose the threat.

Because of these things, Fear motivation is the weakest force in our
motivation definitions list and is reserved for the week and uneducated individuals who attempts to gain power by force.

Cite this page

The Pitfalls of Fear-Based Motivation in the Workplace. (2016, Jul 03). Retrieved from

The Pitfalls of Fear-Based Motivation in the Workplace
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