Monday, March 18, 2013

Fear and Loathing In the Office

Fear isn't a motivator.

It's a demoralizer.

Someone who intimidates, threatens, or belittles their employees in order to increase productivity, isn't a leader.  They're a bully.

Over the course of my career, I've worked for a few bullies who used the "fear factor," attempting to make employees work harder and faster.  They pounded their fists, yelled, told us to go find another job if we didn't like it, and made subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) threats about terminating our employment.

An abusive environment, leads to "greater job frustration, tendency to abuse co-workers, and a lack of perceived organizational support."  It's difficult to actively engage and supervise employees when they are constantly being defensive with you and their co-workers.

Employees remember the times you act in a threatening manner and they internalize it.  Every time you walk through the office door, show up at a meeting, or call them on the phone, their reaction will be the same.  They'll be asking themselves, "What did I do this time?"  They immediately go on the defensive, looking for ways to deflect the abuse.  Employees who work in this kind of environment are constantly distracted by potential threats and they waste time devising ways to avoid them.  With less time available, they are inclined to do only the minimum to keep their jobs and this affects the workloads of other employees and departments.  When companies find themselves in this situation, morale decreases, productivity falls, turnover increases, and profits go down.

A true leader is out front, leading through respect and loyalty.  Employees follow because they want to.  Managers who use fear will find themselves driving results from the rear, constantly cracking the whip and pushing, because employees don't work hard for someone they don't respect. They move forward only because they are forced.

Before you're tempted to use fear as a blunt instrument of motivation, stop and ask yourself:  What will yelling, threatening, or pounding my fist accomplish?  Short term results and long term damage.

In the next post, I'll discuss why managers continue to use fear as a management technique.

Related Posts:  You Can't Train An Old Dog, But You Can Ruin A New One
                        Are You A Bully Manager?  Take the Test

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