Fear in the Workplace

Long before I founded Midwest Consulting Group in 1990 I worked in a variety of organizations in management roles. One thing I noticed was the presence of people who seemed to be in fear much of the time. I came to understand that Fear is a reality in many working environments. You may define workplace fear differently, but what I sensed and saw were some of the following fears:

  • Fear my boss will fire me; I could be without a job, lose my house, etc.
  • Fear people will realize I don’t really know what I’m doing.
  • Fear others will think my ideas are silly or unworkable.
  • Fear I’ll be viewed as not a “team player” if I disagree with plans or priorities.
  • Fear I’ll make a bad decision, support an unsuccessful initiative, or chose the “wrong side” in disputes within the team.
  • Fear of . . . some unknown something that might happen someday.

Recently I worked with a nonprofit arts organization where most of the above fears seemed to be operating. Even the director exhibited some level of fear. As you can imagine, the atmosphere and energy around the group was decidedly negative; people were constantly watching their back.

In “The 8 Essential Skills for Supervisors & Managers” Freedom from Fear is described as the “foundation” of Skill 3 – Building Successful Relationships. When the relationship is one based on Fear, the higher-level aspects – honesty, trust, personal interaction, acceptance, good communication, development and growth, mutual benefit – simply cannot happen.

Over the next several posts we’ll examine the components of successful relationships. As our colleague and coach Mary Jo Asmus says, “It’s all about the relationships.”

Paul

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2 Comments

  1. During our anniversary celebration @KzooInterCom yesterday I had this very conversation with a colleague. We’ve both seen this among some of the clients we serve. There is a clear difference between a client who is inspired and doing outstanding creative work and one who is just trying to please the boss and not misstep. Inevitably the work we’re able to do for the former is far superior to the latter.

  2. Thanks Gretchen! Great point! It’s amazing what we can accomplish when we don’t have to be in fear of the boss or other person in a position of power. Our commitment is to the cause, the mission, the vision, the organization and those it serves, rather than being committed to keeping a low profile and watching our back.


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