Compliments of kevinthoule via Flickr

Fortune Magazine describes Fear of Success as a pervasive problem in this country. People plagued by FOS find they self-sabotage at precisely the moment they’re about to achieve a desired goal. Some examples include Marilyn Monroe, Nixon, and Greg Norman.

Sufferers simply cannot seem to tolerate happiness. Subconsciously, they feel they don’t deserve what they have (a belief that can be imparted by another person). Fisher and Davis mention this can be a parent, teacher, or sibling.

What if fear of success was not confined to childhood and adolescence? Employees who perceive peers as cannon fodder can inflict tremendous damage. In the case of “mobbing” these workers shove your back against a wall – and like vultures circling a carcass, they pick the bones clean. If you want to see the masters of the art, watch people in meetings who sabotage individuals – these are the ones who self-aggrandize through other denigration.

Abuse makes an indelible mark in one’s psyche – a ‘tattoo in the brain” which creates an amygdala hijacking and an automatic fear response.

It’s possible that you as a manager may foster self-sabotage in your direct reports. If you want to unleash someone’s inner critic and destroy their self-confidence, make sure you do the following:


  • Behave in a manner which is cold and rude. Make castigation part of your daily routine.
  • Never stop rubbing their nose in things past.
  • Communicate with them only when it’s necessary.
  • Quickly squash any dissension – that way people will know to keep their mouths shut. Engage workers in a manner in which they feel chronic invalidation.
  • Berate them mercilessly over something that doesn’t amount to a hill of beans. Sutton states the obvious: “Don’t talk to people like they’re idiots.”
  • Be objectionably forward in offering your advice, opinions, and suggestions. Go way beyond what is appropriate for your role. Ask intrusive questions about things that are none of your business.
  • Ask them performance related questions to make sure they’re not messing up, and inquire about nothing else.
  • Take other people’s reports at face value, particularly when they’re snitching on their peers. Periodically check with these individuals to gather more information.
  • Regard workers as nuisances as opposed to prized assets.

Bullying can foster not only PTSD, but an ingrained notion that who you are is simply not good enough. It’s insidious in that it implants an internal enemy – one that cannibalizes from the inside, a heckler from within.

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All viewpoints expressed by Jackie Gilbert are her own, and not of her employer.

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