The fear of not being good enough

Ted Bauer
5 min readMay 19, 2022

The fear of not being good enough is fairly pervasive in most first-world workplaces, I’d argue. (Hell, it’s fairly pervasive in life as a whole.) There is legitimate research that most people’s №1 fear about work is being seen as incompetent. That’s essentially the same thing as a fear of not being good enough.

This isn’t necessarily surprising to me — and probably shouldn’t be to you either. We have a lot of outdated notions around work, and many of those are tied to employee performance. Managers tend not to focus on employee strengths, instead focusing on concepts such as “the performance improvement plan” or ideas like “He/she is a bad employee.” In short, much of management is about getting worried about hitting targets (“a fear of not being good enough”) and, rather than rationally evaluating your team, immediately putting people in boxes as “good” or “bad” because you’re scared of what your boss is about to say to you. It’s a fun little cycle. It repeats endlessly in many jobs, which might explain some of our issues with turnover and retention.

Now that we have a little bit of the landscape here, let’s talk more about this fear of not being good enough.

What factors limit your career?

Let’s be a little blunt upfront: most people don’t understand what really determines their earning potential. Combine that with “lack of clarity around how salaries are set,” and organizations have a lot of power over individuals when we get to money discussions. That’s a problem. It’s one of the reasons (just one) that “pay transparency” is still an issue.

[Tweet “What’s the biggest challenge of the modern workforce? Leaving behind people.”]

That all was about money, though. Let’s talk more broadly. What factors might limit a person’s career? According to this post from VitalSmarts, which is admittedly a few years old, the factors would be:

  • Unreliability
  • “That’s not my job”
  • Procrastination
  • Resistance to change
  • Negative attitude

I’d agree with all five of these. I’ve probably been guilty of all five too, and while I do fine for myself, I ain’t no world-builder and I got canned…

Ted Bauer

Mostly write about work, leadership, friendship, masculinity, male infertility, and some other stuff along the way. It's a pleasure to be here.