Halloween is creeping up behind us, and whilst some offices may be embracing the fun with office treats, for others their work environment is one year-long trick, with ghosts and ghouls having nothing on their superiors.
Coming into prominence over the past decade, the term ‘fear-based workplace’ has become a topic of much discussion. Describing an environment in which fear is the predominant energy, the concept is completely at odds with the direction most workspaces are heading in, and yet despite this over 27% of the UK’s workforce say they’ve experienced fear-based management over the course of their career.
Whilst some fear can be based in the obvious, with shouting and admonitions commonplace, the majority of fear-based workplaces rely on implied consequences, with employees fearful of speaking up, due to worries about being overlooked for promotions or even worse being fired for their opinions. These implications can have an intense effect on our employee’s mental wellbeing, with studies finding that employees who sense a lack of control and don’t feel supported by their work environments often experience dramatically increased stress levels.
Chris Welford, Managing Director of Sixth Sense Consulting says, “Adults are merely children with wrappers on” and one fear that transfers into our adult lives is the fear of the unknown. Not knowing who’s behind the mask our managers put on, can lead to employees struggling to do their best work, with decreased engagement and a much higher turnover rate. In fact studies have found that much more than being called out on their mistakes, employees are fearful of not knowing whether they’re doing a good job or not, meaning both positive feedback and constructive criticism are essential for a fear-free work environment.
CEO of Human Workplace, Liz Ryan, claims one of the biggest signs of a fear-based workplace is the persistent worry amongst employees that they will not have a job within the coming weeks. An effect that can be countered with catch-ups to ensure both leadership and their juniors feel they are doing their best work. In our attempts to reduce fear within the office, a personal approach is necessary to ensure that our employees feel like they are valued, rather than replaceable limbs within a Frankenstein-like machine.
The importance of who we put in charge then shouldn’t be overlooked, with Gallup CEO, Jim Clifton, writing “the single biggest decision you make in your job- bigger than all the rest- is who you name manager. When you name the wrong person manager, nothing fixes that bad decision. Not compensation, not benefits, nothing”.
Not surprisingly Forbes suggest the top two qualities of all good leaders are communication and honesty, meaning rather than shunning those employees who are open with their opinions, it is those who we should be promoting within our companies.
Whilst occasionally showing your employees exactly what’s under the bed, might help them sleep a little better at night.