Despite the occasional need for roller coaster rides or horror films, fear is not an emotion most people want to experience often. This is particularly true if it shows up in the office.
Granted, there are those adventuresome types who thrive on death-defying acts like cliff diving and sword swallowing as a profession, but generally speaking, being scared in the workplace is never a good thing.
So how can you tell if fear is a problem in your office? In a Bloomberg Businessweek article, columnist Liz Ryan listed 10 telling signs that fear is not only present in a company, but wreaking havoc on its stakeholders. Unfortunately, that article has since been removed from their website, but below is a summary of the list:
There is fear in your workplace if . . .
- Concern for reputation outweighs quality of work.
- There is a preoccupation with employee status.
- Distrust halts the sharing of ideas.
- Value of employees are based solely on numbers.
- Rules rather than ingenuity dictate work.
- Title and salary outweigh the ability to freely share ideas.
- The need for understanding is power rather than knowledge driven.
- Wrong people are promoted for the wrong reasons.
- There is an inability for creativity, passion and collaboration.
- Leadership morphs into dictatorship.
An article published on Inc. touches on a similar subject matter. We’ve included some of the most enlightening parts below, though the entire article is certainly worth a read.
Whether employees fear retaliation, punishment, humiliation, or being fired, the study revealed that this emotion quickly leads to dissatisfaction and lowers productivity levels. Once this happens, you’re not far from creating a domino effect that can torpedo creativity and lead to disengagement throughout the company. Fear is also the primary cause of much of the bad behavior you see in companies, from office politics to poor communication. While a culture of fear may temporarily make people work harder to try to avoid undesired consequences, leading through fear will always backfire on you–particularly when it comes to retention. In other words, fear kills the company’s productivity engine.
Limit the rulebook. Too many rules reflect too little trust. When you really trust your team, you don’t need as many rules. Reaching the point where that level of trust permeates the culture is important, because trust is a fear-buster that will result in employees feeling better about the company and its leadership team.
Measure systems, not people. W. Edwards Deming proposed a theory to measure the performance of systems, not people, to help drive fear out of organizations. As one of Deming’s 14 Points on Total Quality Management, he advised eliminating numerical quotas for the workforce, as well as numerical goals for management. We’ve taken this philosophy to heart with our sales team by eliminating sales commissions–and the short-term, “if-then,” extrinsically motivated mentality behind them that grounds innovation. You can’t have a culture of continual improvement if people are afraid of suffering serious financial consequences as a result of their individual performance.
Instead, our goal is to get everyone to realize that we’re all in this together, working as a team and measuring the output of the overall system. This intrinsically motivated mentality encourages individual innovation on the sales team. It leads to better behavior, better performance, and improvements that can become breakthroughs for the company over time. We’ve taken another page from Deming’s playbook by eliminating annual performance reviews companywide. In their place, we encourage frequent informal conversations between leadership and their teams with a focus on continual improvement, not just performance.
In AccelaWork’s view, the greatest way to improve productivity and generate overall success is to empower employees, building employee satisfaction, rather than inhibiting them. As the list above shows, encouraging subordination and allowing fear to dictate work does little more than create a volatile work environment that breeds intimidation, resentment and low employee retention.
Don’t allow stakeholder passion and creativity to fall by the wayside. Contact our business process improvement methodology consultants today. We guarantee your stakeholders will find a renewed sense of value through encouragement and trust. And though we may not dissipate fear with popcorn and funnel cakes like theaters and amusement parks, we guarantee our solutions are just as successful and satisfying.