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Anxiety and Fear in Workplace: the Perception of Risk in Administrative Decisions

Paulo Roberto Motta

Anxiety and fear have become issues of increasing attention for management studies of a larger social awareness on risk factors. Uncertainty and fear have spread for different life spheres including the workplace. This article deals with anxiety and fear as associated to management decision-making and behavior.

For public managers participating in policy formulation process, the future is perceived with larger uncertainty because of their constant interaction with a changing world. Based on the cognitive perspective, risk is seen as being subjectively interpreted by individuals and influenced by a variety of psychological, social, cultural and institutional factors.

This paper presents the results of a research carried out among 154 managers from different public agencies and private companies. The main objective was to identify what causes more anxiety and fear at their jobs. Most managers showed intense worry about their jobs independent of most factors. The main exception was found on organization type-being public and private and gender character.

In spite of an almost universal worry about work, public managers showed larger anxiety and risk perception than private managers. At first sight, it could appear as a contradiction with current beliefs about public and private managers attitudes and behavior. Further analysis showed that public managers perceive different and important factors that provoke higher anxiety such as: higher perception of ambiguity in public function; higher perception of vulnerability on account of political struggles; lower response capacity to risk perception; constant critical reaction from clients and non-clients; and higher visibility and questioning by the social communication.

Fear and anxiety scales showed executive fearing damages to their professional image and career as stronger than other variables. Also the research deals with preferential forms of reaction to anxiety and fear in management decision-making.

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