Drive out fear, so that everyone may work effectively for the company.
Fear and Social Networking
From my consulting experience (and, I regret to say, from some of my experience as an employee) fear can be a very real issue in organizations – inhibiting people’s willingness to try new things, to speak out when they see inefficient practices or broken processes, to challenge dumb decisions by management, and so on. Fear also limits people’s engagement in their work (their willingness to give their discretionary effort). And, in an age of emerging Enterprise 2.0 – with its dependence upon internal and external social networking, fear can be a major impediment to progress in learning and developing new ways of working, innovating products and services, and better connecting stakeholders.
Today’s climate of high unemployment and the threat of “downsizing” on the horizon, fear in many organizations is on the uptick. Fear mobilizes the body’s “fight or flight” mechanism, leading to either defensive behavior (hiding, submissive, low engagement) or aggressive (even destructive) behavior. I sometimes see the variant of passive-aggressive behavior, where, for example, people agree to a decision, then work the back channels to sabotage it!
So, to what degree is fear inhibiting your organization’s efficiency and effectiveness? What is the source of that fear? What can be done to eliminate or at least, reduce fear in the workplace?
Fear and Trust
Fear is the opposite of trust. Trust is important for high performing organizations because it leads to synergy and performance. As organizations begin to enter the Enterprise 2.0 realm, fear and trust become even more important.
Author and management consultant Charles Handy, notes that, “If we are to enjoy the efficiencies and other benefits of the virtual organization, we will have to rediscover how to run organizations based more on trust than on control. Virtuality requires trust to make it work: Technology on its own is not enough”.
Driving Out Fear
Corporate coach Jan Austin in her excellent blog post FEAR IN THE WORKPLACE: SYMPTOMS, SOURCES, SOLUTIONS, suggests that:
Eliminating fear begins with leaders acknowledging their own responsibility for creating and/or participating in a fear-driven organizational culture. By examining their assumptions and behaviors which have either triggered or perpetuated defensive, fearful responses in others, and consciously choosing to communicate in a more positive, proactive manner, they can interrupt the patterns of fear and the associated defensive routines in the organization. Leaders can take a number of steps to engage organizational constituents in more open, collaborative conversations and encourage greater positive participation in the work of the organization. Leaders can do this by employing simple but powerful facilitation skills.
Jan goes on to suggest techniques four key strategies for leaders, comprising:
- Establishing Rapport
- Improving Listening Skills
- Asking Questions Which Increase Trust and Reduce Fear
- Promoting Dialogue
Check out Jan’s post. How many of these strategies and the techniques she suggests might help your organization become a less fearful and more collaborative place?
Image courtesy of The Vancouver Sun