Breaking the Fear Barrier
Business Journal

Breaking the Fear Barrier

A company's worst enemy is not always the competition. Sometimes it's the fear that lives within its own walls.

In companies, fear can take many forms: fear of not meeting a goal, of not getting a bonus, of losing decision rights and respect. Fear compels employees and managers to protect themselves by creating seemingly impenetrable barriers fortified by rules and practices that benefit one group while harming others.

Sound familiar? If so, then you know that left unchecked, fear-driven barriers can spread at an alarming rate in a company. Workgroups start to define success not by reaching the company's overall goal, but by fulfilling their part of the process. Restrictive policies pile up until managers start to exert extreme control over headcount and resources. Other managers feel compelled to build empires -- taking over other departments' functions to regain or enhance their self-sufficiency. In the midst of these counterproductive activities, employees suffer, success deteriorates, and efficiency dies.

These barriers might seem insurmountable, but they are not. They were built internally, and they can be destroyed internally.

By learning from the real-world lessons in this book, leaders, managers, and employees can overcome the barriers that plague their company. It takes courageous leadership, and it can be difficult, but the result will be nothing less than transformational.

About the Author

From the boardrooms of America to the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, Tom Rieger has studied how fear of loss and missed expectations can lead to instability and incredibly harmful behavior. Rieger pioneered the study and science of organizational barriers and is an expert in applying behavioral economic principles to help understand how large complex systems self-destruct. Through this work, he has become a recognized leader in developing methods and frameworks to identify and remove barriers to success for societies and companies. He regularly consults for a variety of organizations across multiple industries and sectors. In 1994, Rieger joined Gallup, where he is the leader and chief architect of Gallup's worldwide consulting efforts regarding barriers. He is also an expert in international research and polling methods as well as in developing and applying statistical models to a variety of complex organizational issues.

Prior to joining Gallup, Rieger designed and ran a global customer measurement program for a Fortune 100 company and worked with predictive models for new brands and strategies. He received a Master of Science degree in Industrial Administration from Carnegie Mellon University's Tepper School of Business in 1986 and currently resides in Southern California.


"If you struggle with bureaucracy, this book is required reading. Tom Rieger's diagnosis of all-too-familiar organizational problems and his clear plan to solve them will help executives put an end to handwringing, and provide a jumpstart in transforming their organizations."

-- Mike Mears, Chief of Human Capital, CIA (retired)

"Rieger's book offers a process for systematically [creating] a culture of courage, where employees live and work productively and positively. Take a look and break your own fear barriers."

-- Jack Covert and Todd Sattersten, The 100 Best Business Books of All Time blog
(view full review on the 800CEOread website)

"In 145 clearly written pages -- easy weekend reading -- Tom Rieger exposes the truths instinctively understood by everyone but seldom admitted in polite company."

-- Ken Allard, New York Journal of Books

"Energetic read that can set you on a liberated pace."

-- The Hindu Business Line

"This is a book that climbs out of the corporate thinking box to ask new questions and presents fresh solutions."

-- Barnes & Noble editorial review

"…use Breaking the Fear Barrier to dig below the surface, diagnose and cure the crippling yet often invisible emotional element of fear in the workplace." -

-- American Express Open Forum

"Rieger's style is smart and practical. [The book] is useful to a business organization of any size."

-- Kevin Price, US Daily Review

"…a great book for discussion within a business, university, or nonprofit organization. I highly recommend it."

-- Al Erisman, Ethix

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