Are you guilty of creating a workplace where employees’ prime motivation is fear? In the past, we’ve discussed the negative impact fear-based leadership can have on staff. Today we offer these five classic signs employees operate out of a sense of fear … fear of consequences, fear of harsh (and often unnecessary) criticism, fear of micromanagement, fear of losing their jobs:
- They keep long hours. Do a lot of employees make it a point to get into the office before you and work until well after you leave? This may be due to the fact they feel more “focused” without you looking over their shoulders. Workplaces tend to be more relaxed in the early morning and late evening hours. In cases where employees feel they’re being micromanaged, these hours are perfect for getting things done without feeling like someone is constantly watching their every move.
- You’re always the last to know. If you’re the last to know when employees are quitting, unhappy or there’s something wrong, it’s a clear sign they view you as an outsider (aka “not one of them”). Managers who are well respected often have inside sources who share info with them. In fact, employees who respect their managers generally make it a point to meet with them before sharing work-related news with anyone else in the office.
- There are rules everywhere. While it’s good to have clear policies in place for employees to follow, managers who try to dictate how everything should be done do so at their own peril. This type of behavior makes employees feel like indentured servants with no sense of ownership over their department (or pride in their work). The result is a rigid workplace where no one dares to draw outside the lines — a situation that severely limits creativity and motivation.
- The most respected employees never stay long. Fear-based managers often feel threatened by employees with strong potential. As a result, these employees are often passed over for promotion by weaker candidates who the manager doesn’t perceive to be a risk. This type of philosophy only weakens the department over time, resulting in a lack of respect for both the manager and those who immediately report to him/her.
- Everything is a secret. Employees have no access to numbers, important files and other pertinent info. The manager keeps everything under lock and key and requires that employees request it directly, as well as explain their reasons for doing so. While some info is meant to be confidential, keeping the bulk of data locked away slows productivity, limits potential, and results in a department that moves at a snail’s pace. In addition, once an employee feels intimidated about requesting data, he/she will more than likely not do so again unless it’s completely necessary.
Based in part on “Ten Signs of a Fear-Based Workplace,” by Liz Ryan, Bloomberg Businessweek, 7/9/10.