Work + Fear = Mediocre Results

A friend and colleague sent me a great article from the NY Times about the effects of fear in the workplace. The author argues that when employees are fearful, they hesitate to do anything outside the norm for fear of repercussions.  Creativity, innovation, and smart risk-taking erode: all require thinking and behavior outside the norm.

It’s interesting: as most companies continue to recover from the depths of the recession, I note two very different responses on the part of senior management.  In some organizations, there’s a renewed – even heightened -sense of hope and possibility: “We made it through!  Everything’s starting to flow again — let’s REALLY make it work this time.”

In other organizations, the response seems exactly the opposite: “We may have made it through this far…but we could fall back into the ditch at any moment. Let’s keep a really tight rein on everything to make sure nothing bad happens.”

Given the deleterious effects of fear on employees – on their morale, their commitment, their creativity – I suspect that this fearful, defensive approach might create the very thing its proponents are attempting to avoid.

I propose this: learn every lesson you can from the events of the past three years.  Then be bold. Engage people, with hope, in seeing and creating reasonable aspirations for your company’s future.

About Erika Andersen

Over the past 30 years, Erika has developed a reputation for creating approaches to learning and business-building that are custom tailored to her clients’ challenges, goals, and culture.

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