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Management by “Fear”…

Posted by Anadi Upadhyaya on September 18, 2012


Managing workforce by playing with their fear factor is frequently used but rarely acknowledged management practice. Strong Belief in formal power, frequent use of forcing as a conflict resolution technique and use of penalty as a motivational factor give birth to a manipulative organization culture where practice of management by fear nurture and maintained.

Employee’s fear of failure, fear of not receiving reward or recognition, fear of losing job or similar; many managers identify it quickly and use it as a tool to rule over the people. Manager’s own insecurity and short sightedness fuels it further as they promote culture of uncertainty and ambiguity to make sure that fear-factor not only exist in the system but also prosper.

When you work in a team, it’s natural that you will discover fears or shortcomings of your teammates, how you utilize this information, depends on your value system. Either you can exploit it by maximizing their fear factor for your benefit or you can help them to conquer fear. Either you can empower your team so that they can fight back or you can assure that they gradually lose their self-esteem and become more vulnerable.

Management by fear is a perfect recipe for business failure and a proof of broken employee engagement. It’s a responsibility of every leader to ensure that an organization treats its people with dignity, trust and respect.

 

If you are a victim of such a culture and it’s going beyond your tolerance limit, you may need to take help from your HR department. You may also count on a feedback mechanism which can help you to get your voice heard and answered.

4 Responses to “Management by “Fear”…”

  1. Even if management by fear is not used as described above, management by cost is pretty much the same thing and leads to dysfunctional behaviours. If an employee has nothing to do he will do one of two things 1.) slow down his work rate so that he looks busy all the time or 2.) he goes looking for work and thus will increase work in progress and slow down the flow of work through the organisation (this NOT limited to production!). Both achieve the opposite of what management actually desires – more sales and lower costs.

    Management gets in on the bad practice too! They behave as though they believe that a resource standing idle is a major waste … and act upon this belief. They cause too much work in progress leading to the slow down in work flow but also more inventory, shortages and surpluses as well as poor due date performance and too long lead-times.

    Why do we do it? Prof John Little and his predecessors have long shown the fallacy and Little delivered the mathematical proof that some resources standing idle is a GOOD thing!

    Fear of poor performance; lost pay increases; lost jobs are some of what employees fear.

    Rudi

    • Thanks for reading Rudi. If employees have nothing to do they might fake to look more “Busy” and always have more time to “Manage the Perception”. But a “True” leader should be able spot it in no time and must take corrective action.

      I believe in saying that “You don’t lead by hitting people over the head.That’s assault, not leadership.”

      • A good manager should be able to spot it … but employees are very good at looking busy. The immediate manager also has an interest in his employees looking busy … he (believes) he needs them, does not want to risk losing them etc. Also, read Parkinson’s law … many employees is a status symbol …

        Anyway, the point is the leader is often too far removed to really see whats up and the immediate manager does not have the same interest.

        Especially companies that have cost reduced by asking employees to help find ways for greater efficiency are subject to the problem … because they often fire the sa,e people that helped improve in the first place. Can you blame employees’ behaviour?

        Rudi

      • Cutting the cost blindly without a realistic assessment will result in dysfunctional behaviors. People like to play the “Blame Game” but leaders should not allow this behavior to prosper in their workplaces.

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