Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Yochi Cohen-Charash

Committee Members

Charles Scherbaum

Kristin Sommer

Logan Watts

Julie Dinh

Subject Categories

Industrial and Organizational Psychology


fear of success, workplace, achievement, motivation, envy, affiliation


Fear of success refers to the anxiety experienced by individuals as they come close to accomplishing a goal, ambivalent and even paralyzed over choosing to accept or avoid success. Success fearers are more likely to avoid success, choosing to forego their goal to avoid the assumed negative repercussions that will accompany the success (Canavan, 1989). Though interest in fear of success has waned since its introduction in the 1970’s, evidence of fear of success still exists today. However, original theories of fear of success cannot explain its impact on both men and women, and little is known about how it impacts individuals in the workplace. The present studies were designed to reevaluate existing theory about fear of success in order to further our understanding of the phenomenon in the organizational context. In Study 1, using qualitative interviews, I sought to challenge and expand existing theory regarding the origins and consequences of fear of success. In Study 2, using a correlational study, I examined the relationships between fear of success and several key personality (e.g., achievement motivation, locus of control, self-esteem) and individual-level work-related (e.g., organizational identification, mentorship quality) factors. My findings confirmed some prior information about fear of success, while other results suggest the need for new theory and for further experimentation. My dissertation provides a first step toward better understanding how fear of success influences behavior in the workplace and informs recommendations on how to alleviate its undesirable effects in the workplace and enhance its desirable effects.