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Culture of fear


Culture of fear (or climate of fear) is the concept that people may incite fear in the general public to achieve political goals through emotional bias. It is also a term applied to the workplace.

Ashforth discussed potentially destructive sides of leadership and identified what he referred to as petty tyrants: leaders who exercise a tyrannical style of management, resulting in a climate of fear in the workplace. Partial or intermittent negative reinforcement can create an effective climate of fear and doubt. When employees get the sense that bullies are tolerated, a climate of fear may be the result. Several studies have confirmed a relationship between bullying, on one hand, and an autocratic leadership and an authoritarian way of settling conflicts or dealing with disagreements, on the other. An authoritarian style of leadership may create a climate of fear, with little or no room for dialogue and where complaining being considered futile.

In a study of public-sector union members, approximately one in five workers reported having considered leaving the workplace as a result of witnessing bullying taking place. Rayner explained the figures by pointing to the presence of a climate of fear in which employees considered reporting to be unsafe, where bullies had been tolerated previously despite management knowing of the presence of bullying.

Individual differences in sensitivity to reward, punishment, and motivation have been studied under the premises of reinforcement sensitivity theory and have also been applied to workplace performance.

A culture of fear at the workplace runs contrary to the "key principles" established by W. Edwards Deming for managers to transform business effectiveness. One of his fourteen principles is to drive out fear in order to allow everyone to work effectively for the company.



  • The Formation of the National Security State: the State and the Opposition in Military Brazil, Volume 2 (1982) by Maria Helena Moreira Alves
  • Risk Society, Towards a New Modernity (1989), by Ulrich Beck, [the term was coined in German by the same author in Risikogesellschaft. Die organisierte Unverantwortlichkeit (this subtitle means in English: "Organized irresponsibility"), a speech given at St. Gallen College, Switzerland, 16pp., in 1989, then published as full-length book with the title: Risikogesellschaft, Suhrkamp, 1989, 391pp., ]
  • The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Things (2000), by Barry Glassner
  • Creating Fear: News and the Construction of a Crisis (2002), by David L. Altheide, Aldine de Gruyter, 223pp.,
  • Kingdom of Fear: Loathsome Secrets of a Star-Crossed Child in the Final Days of the American Century (2003), by Hunter S. Thompson, Simon & Schuster,
  • The Climate of Fear (2004), by Wole Soyinka, BBC Reith Lectures 2004, London, Profile Books, 155pp.,
  • State of Fear (2004), Michael Crichton,
  • Culture of Fear: Risk taking and the morality of low expectation (2005), by Frank Furedi,
  • Politics of Fear: Beyond Left and Right (2005), by Frank Furedi,
  • You Have the Power: Choosing Courage in a Culture of Fear (2005), by Frances Moore Lappe and Jeffrey Perkins,
  • Urban Nightmares: The Media, the Right and the Moral Panic over the City (2006), by Steve Macek,
  • Cultures of Fear: A Critical Reader (2009), by Uli Linke, Danielle Smith, Anthropology, Culture and Society,
  • Witnesses to Terror (2012), by Luke Howie, Baskinstoke, Palgrave MacMillan
  • Social Theory of Fear: terror, torture and death in a post Capitalist World (2010), by Geoffrey Skoll, New York, Palgrave MacMillan
  • A Difficult World, Examining the roots of Capitalism(2015), by Korstanje Maximiliano, New York, Nova Science Publishers,
  • Terrorism, Tourism and the end of hospitality in the West(2017), by Korstanje Maximiliano, New York, Palgrave-Macmillan,
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