Research

Fear of failure holds back two in five people

23 Jan 2020 By Siobhan Palmer

Research suggests women are more likely to worry about making mistakes than men

Some workers spend up to 40 per cent of their working day worrying about making mistakes, a study from IE University, VU University in Amsterdam and Nyenrode University has revealed. 

Two in five (40 per cent) of the 1,000 employees surveyed about their confidence levels at work reported spending between 20 and 40 per cent of their time worried about making mistakes. 

However, this figure jumped to 46 per cent of women and a staggering almost 70 per cent of young professionals reporting the same levels of time spent anxious about getting things wrong. 

Men were less likely to struggle with such worries, with 33 per cent reporting similar levels of time spent grappling with confidence issues. 

“Not feeling confident can have a particularly detrimental effect on new staff members,” says Professor Nick van Dam, one of the study’s authors. 

He points out that being afraid of getting things wrong can prevent workers from learning and growing. “Employees often only perform well in new positions if they have enough self-confidence and aren’t afraid of making mistakes,” he says. 

Peter Ryding, founder of e-learning provider Vic Your Coach, says HR should change its approach when it comes to encouraging confidence at work in light of the study’s findings, advocating for employers to celebrate learning from mistakes. “If you punish failure, you kill creativity,” he says. 

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