If you really want to force a response out of someone, scare them. Seriously. Anybody who says fear doesn’t motivate has never seen a movie about the paranormal or never looked into their rearview mirror only to find police sirens blaring immediately behind them.
Nope, fear works, but only for the short term. If you’re playing the long-game of employee engagement then you know that employee fit and culture go hand-in-hand. The two are inextricably linked.
However, in cultures where fear exists, employee engagement suffers. Fear quickly erodes trust, credibility, authenticity and every other aspect of “goodness” that defines a strong culture.
In fact, leave it to Harvard Business School to provide the latest research that fear in today’s workplace has reached epidemic levels, dissuading employees from speaking their minds about important business issues; matters that could provide context and therefore impact decision making but don’t simply because those matters remain silent.
Why are these numbers growing in mass amounts? Moreover, how can companies ensure they’re setting up their culture for success and steering clear of fear? Good questions, thanks for asking. I spoke with Matthew Gonnering, CEO of Widen, who offered to shed some light on this topic.
Here are four ways to steer clear of fear-based work culture:
1. Pay attention to EQ. In the off chance that you’ve been living in a bubble for the past twenty years or so (sorry, that’s the cynic in me) and aren’t familiar with the acronym EQ, emotional quotient (EQ) is the degree to which one is able to identify and interpret emotions within oneself and others, as well as the interchange in between.
Unlike IQ, EQ is developable, which means enhancing emotional competencies such as self-awareness, situation awareness, empathy and impulse control, for example, have huge implications for leaders because how leaders show up have second and third order effects for those in their circles of influence. Inept leaders instill fear in people because they don’t know other ways to motivate, are situationally unaware, lack the self-awareness to know how they’re being received or are not empathetic to the needs of others. Keep these people out; encourage self-discovery.
2. Leave your baggage at the door. Habits are good because they offer structure and structure provides security. In a world where change is the norm, finding certainty where uncertainty is the flavor of the day–every day–is a natural tendency. However, it’s when the naturalness of these habits induce unnatural results that problems arise. New hires, for instance, bring habits onboard that may not be natural in a new culture. If they were raised not to question, not to share and not to think, just do, then they bring a fear mentality with them unintentionally. Be sure to communicate what is acceptable as a cultural norm and what isn’t–even if it’s been a while or if nothing has been articulated before. If you don’t take the time to set the right trajectory for your culture then it doesn’t matter how fast or how high you’re flying, because you’ll only get to the wrong place faster and it’ll be a bumpy ride along the way. Curiosity breeds communication; communication opens the flow of information; greater context (from information) enables A) decision-making and B) decision-making at the right levels.
3. Comfortable with the unknown. While the willingness to question everything is driven by a need for control and security, sometimes finding an answer just ain’t gonna happen. In times like these, which probably entails 18 out of 24 hours of the day, intentionally finding projects that lack structure is a great way to build your confidence for working in the unknown. There needs to be comfort in the unknown, and this comes from a manager or leader who encourages or coaches rather than tells or threatens.
4. Be vulnerable. At the end of the day, we’re all human (well, most of us). Nobody has all the answers, which is exactly why hiring people smarter than you elevates your game. Fear doesn’t just roll downhill. It beams from the inside-out, too. Humility sets great leaders apart from the rest and, in turn, creates a culture of engagement and curiosity.
You wouldn’t like working with a toxic peer, and fear-based cultures are no different. Do away with the bad, share the good and find a forum to communicate the why for both and you’ll build a culture that nobody can live without.
This article was written by Jeff Boss from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.