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Archive for the ‘fear’ Category

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.

Posted in engagement, fear, management | Tagged: , | 4 Comments »

Uncertainty, Fear, and Our Response

Posted by Mark Bennett on August 24, 2011

Since the Great Recession we’ve seen mass layoffs followed by weak rehiring. We’re now seeing possible renewed layoffs in response to the latest indications of a slowdown in the recovery. Government programs are being cut as well.

Two recent news items, although unrelated to each other, highlighted to me different ways organizations can respond to the extreme uncertainty of the world economy today. One, with a bias to thoughtful action. The other, not so much.

The first is Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz’s open letter saying that rather than feed the cycle of fear by announcing layoffs, Starbucks would instead pledge to hire – “to accelerate growth, employment, and investment in jobs.” This is what most agree is needed to return to and sustain an economic recovery.

The second is about the plan to shut down the “Statistical Abstract of the United States.” This is produced by the Census Board and is an incredibly valuable source of data, used by a wide variety of organizations. The savings? $2.9 million, but the cost to consumers of this data (i.e. our economy) could quite easily be a very large multiple of that purported savings as they have to either find all that data themselves or contract with someone who will.

So, two responses to current conditions.

In one, the harsh reality is acknowledged, but the plan of action is to create positive change (i.e. Leadership.) In the other, a cut is made under the guise of “we must find every way possible to become more efficient.”

Whatever you think of Starbucks and what it may symbolize to you, the hiring pledge is saying, “We do not have to resort to layoffs in response to economic uncertainty – in fact, it’s harmful to the economy as a whole.” It’s saying there are other ways to keep the business viable in tough times. Time will tell if the pledge will be upheld and how well those other measures work.

Whatever your politics and whatever you think of government programs and whether any can provide value comparable to a private venture, the prioritization of efficiency over effectiveness represents a ham-handed approach to cost-cutting. Just as you should always examine the return gained by the next incremental dollar(s) spent when comparing investments, so you should examine the return loss (if any) that results from the next incremental dollar(s) cut.

In the end, we can choose our response to uncertainty. We can take positive steps to make the situation better the best we know how, or we can say our hands are tied and watch value burn down.

You can have your voice heard in saving the Abstract  here or by writing to ACSD.US.Data at census dot gov.

Posted in fear, risk, Uncategorized | 7 Comments »

Elements of Change

Posted by Ken Klaus on January 30, 2011

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve looked at the catalysts for change as well as the role choice plays in igniting the transformation process.  And though our failures often inspire us to make a change, motivation alone will not be enough to nurture and sustain our goal over the long-term.  Transformation requires more than just the spark of inspiration, it needs fuel, and this energy source must come from within.  No external source – whether family, friends, or institutions – will ever be strong enough, will ever last long enough, to see us through to the end.  This elemental fuel comes from within and when it is purposefully applied leads us from good intentions to meaningful actions.  These elements are courage, risk, and honesty.

Courage is almost always understood in the context of fear, and whereas courage is understood as a virtue, fear is usually regarded as a weakness.  Courage, however, is not the absence of fear and without fear courage has no value.  A. C. Grayling makes this point in his book, Meditations for the Humanist: Ethics for a Secular Age.  “Moreover, courage can only be felt by those who are afraid.  If a man is truly fearless as he leaps over the enemy parapet or hurls himself into a rugby tackle, he is not courageous.  Because most people fail to recognize this simple fact, the true quantum of heroism in the world goes unrecognised and therefore unrewarded.  The quaking public speaker, the trembling amateur actor, the nervous hospital patient submitting himself to needles and scalpels, are all manifesting courage.  ‘This is courage in a man,’ Eurpides further said, ‘to bear what heaven sends.’  Actually he said ‘to bear unflinchingly’, but by this addition he spoils the sentiment, because if courage requires fear, then flinching is perfectly in order.”

Fear, I think, is a gift and like failure it is often a great motivator.  But motivation is not enough.  We have to act and acting requires courage.  Most of us fear change; but if lasting, meaningful transformation is our goal then we must stand our ground.  We must courageously – not fearlessly – face each new day.  We must act in spite of our fear and not make the mistake of waiting until we are unafraid.

Closely allied to courage is risk.  Risk is frequently associated with chance or with what we cannot see or anticipate; and I think the underlying emotion tied to risk is vulnerability.  Vulnerability, like fear, is often seen as a weakness.  It is something we work very hard to hide from others.  A thousand years ago this was part of our survival instinct.  Living behind walls of stone was far safer than dwelling in a thatched cottage in the middle of a wheat field.  But there’s also a positive, even necessary, side to vulnerability, which I only just discovered this past week while browsing through the presentations on TED.com.  Quite accidently I stumbled upon an inspiring and deeply insightful presentation by Brene Brown on The Power of Vulnerability.  If you have the time I encourage you to listen to this presentation.  In fact, if you’re short on time, I suggest you stop reading right here and just head over to TED.com.  The central idea in Dr. Brown’s presentation is that without vulnerability we cannot be whole, we cannot feel connected, we cannot ever fully be ourselves, and I would add, we cannot really change.  Here again failure presents us with an opportunity – not for shame, which is far too often the case – but an opportunity to be open, to be vulnerable, to risk taking a different path.  But if we shun this feeling, if we reject openness, connection, compassion and courage, then the opportunity for change will be lost.  We will remain stuck in the routines and patterns that lead us back again and again to the same failures.  Courage, then, is not only a friend to the fearful, but also to all those who would embrace vulnerability and risk change.  But courage alone will not be enough.

Vulnerability also requires honesty.  Self-awareness is the key to our ability to be honest, both with ourselves and with others.  What we do not know about ourselves we cannot possibly hope to change.  In the first act of Hamlet, as Laertes was setting off for France, his father Polonius enjoins him, “This above all: To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou cans’t not be false to any man.”  But from the day we are born we are taught the very opposite of this truism: Follow the rules.  Be like everyone else.  Don’t be different.  Go along to get along.  And sadly we do, without even realizing it, until we no longer know who we are or what we want.  And we spend our lives chasing only the shadow of our dreams because we have come to believe that our real dreams are too ambitions, to unconventional, too silly, too impractical, too whatever.  But coming to truly understand who we are, and what we want, and why both of these things are important, opens us to the possibility for real change.  James Hollis makes the following observation in his book Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life: How to Finally, Really Grow Up.

Some of us, understandably, do not wish to hear even this message of hope and personal growth.  We wish to have our old world, our former assumptions and stratagems reinstituted as quickly as possible.  Most of us live our lives backing into our future, making the choices of each new moment from the data and agenda of the old – and then we wonder why repetitive patterns turn up in our lives.  Our dilemma was best described in the nineteenth century by the Danish theologian Søren Kierkegaard when he noted in his journal the paradox that life must be remembered backward but lived forward.  Is it not self-deluding, then, to keep doing the same thing but expecting different results?

For those willing to stand in the heat of this transformational fire, the second half of life provides a shot at getting themselves back again.  They might still fondly gaze at the old world, but they risk engaging a larger world, one more complex, less safe, more challenging, the one that is already irresistibly hurtling toward them.

Paradoxically, this summons asks us to begin taking ourselves more seriously than ever before, but in a different way than before.  Such self-examination cannot proceed without, for instance, more honesty than we have been capable of.  Living within a constricted view of our journey, and identifying with old defensive strategies, we unwittingly become the enemies of our own growth, our own largeness of soul, through our repetitive history-bound choices.

Change – genuine, meaningful transformation – is hard and often requires heroic effort, which is why the virtues so often associated with heroes include courage, risk, and honesty.  Fear and failure may prove to be the motivation behind our efforts to change, but without these other essential elements we cannot hope to maintain the commitment – the fire – required over the days, weeks, months or years it may take to reach our goals.  Be courageous and stand your ground; choose risk over comfort – embrace vulnerability; and be faithful to yourself and to your dreams.  These are the elements that will sustain and nurture your transformation.

Posted in failure, fear, goals, risk | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Focus on Failure!

Posted by Mark Bennett on February 6, 2010

funny dog picturesNo, this is not advice to try to fail, but rather if (and when) you do fail, you’ll want to expend some time, thought and energy into actively learning from that failure. This is hinted at by an interesting finding from some neuroscience research done at MIT, which has implications not only for individuals, but organizations as well.

The research showed that the part of the brain that tracks success and failure appears to change and process more efficiently after success, but not after failure. What does that mean for us? Here’s a telling quote from the HBR article citing the research:

“But after failure,” Miller points out, “there was little change in brain activity.” In other words, the brain didn’t store any information about what went wrong and use it the next time. The monkey just tried, tried again.

In other words, left to its own devices, our brains will likely not learn from failure. Fortunately, we have the ability to recognize that fact and take steps to correct it. We can pause after failure and seriously ponder what went wrong – what was the cause of the failure? But that takes time, thought and energy to figure it out.

Now, consider what you might be short of in an organizational culture dominated by fear. That’s correct; there’s never enough time, don’t stop to think – act, and the energy generated by fear is more typically applied to shift the blame or hide the failure than in learning from the failure. So, without Psychological Safety, as Victorio puts it, you get a compounded problem with failure. First, as we already know, people will be averse to taking risk in general. That means fewer opportunities for innovation, profit, etc. Secondly, when failure does occur, its ability to even have any positive learning effect at all is almost entirely wiped out. No learning occurs automatically and, since more effort is spent hiding the failure or shifting the blame, no learning from thinking through the failure occurs either. Since no one sees any benefit from taking the risk, the cycle is reinforced and even fewer risks are taken and even less learning occurs.

However, if your organization has tolerance for thoughtful risk-taking, the cycle can be turned positive. Just recognize that a bit more effort is required to make a failure become a learning experience. Avoid what happens to the monkeys!

Posted in failure, fear, learning, risk, Uncategorized | Tagged: | 12 Comments »

 
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