CompaniesOct 29 2015

Don’t run a business based on fear

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‘The Fear-Free Organization”, by a neuroscientist, organisational psychotherapist and an oil and gas executive, is a must read for any business leader trying to grapple with his or her company’s business culture.

It starts from the premise that bosses use fear far too frequently, because it is quick and instant, and gets results in the short-term. But the longer-term consequences are a company that is run on fear, where people spend most of their time and mental energy trying to protect themselves.

The book’s authors, Paul Brown, Joan Kingsley and Sue Paterson, say this is not sustainable. Fear might have been hardwired into our brain at an early stage of our evolution, but it is not designed to be used on a consistent and long-term basis. Too much running on fear eventually leads to stress, burn-out and exhaustion.

Part of the problem, the authors suggest, is that many business leaders do not take their staff’s needs seriously. They focus easily on either the tangible bottom line, sales or press write-ups. But, so the authors argue, if they took time to build their relationships with their staff, creating a climate of trust, staff would have more energy to spare to focus on being productive rather than trying to survive.

The book says: “The leader must be open and honest about what is happening around him or her, and why. We all tend to fear the unknown. The antidote is accurate and true information.”

The only problem with this is that in many organisations, managers have to hide things from their staff for commercial confidentiality. Information in many places is passed on, on a need-to-know basis.

Nonetheless, the analysis of dismantling a culture of fear and intimidation in an organisation where everyone is fighting for survival, certainly sounds like common sense. Releasing staff from their fears with honest management that they can believe in would certainly make for happier employees.

Published by Kogan Page
Melanie Tringham is features editor of Financial Adviser