Ten Signs of a Fear-Based Workplace…

Not thinking of any any government department/non departmental governmental organisation in particular, but I thought this was an interesting spot from a colleague this morning on Yahoo’s finance pages:

When senior leaders make virtually all decisions in secret, dole out information in unhelpful drips, and base hiring on sheeplike compliance rather than energy and talent, and the PA system all but blares “Be glad to have a job, stop whining, and get back to work,” your company’s fear problem is off the charts.

I saw an example of this myself the other day when I stopped at a national retailer to look at earrings. A sales associate mentioned to his co-worker, “Crazy thing, I broke something in my car’s engine, and my mechanic says it’ll be $1,400 to get it fixed.” In a flash, the supervisor of the department swooped into the conversation with the message, “Lucky you’ve got a job, aren’t you then! A lot of people are unemployed, and we’ve got a list of people who’d love to have your job. That’s your thought for the afternoon: Lucky Me!” and off she went.

When leadership is based on keeping people in the dark and keeping them off-balance, no one benefits except the tier of managers near the top who justify their existence by devising ways to solidify their stature.

As Paschal noted earlier in the week: “The underlying cause of the crisis is an ethical ‘black hole’ at the heart of corporate capitalism’”… to which I might add, corporations of all kinds… But read all ten, they’re great crack…

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  • joeCanuck

    Mick,
    Don’t think it’s confined to the types of organization you mention. Political Parties, one more than others in N.I, seem to act like that often.

  • Where would one start to comment on this.

  • joeCanuck

    Think petty would be dictators.
    As to fear, why has no one the nerve to tell Robinson that his days are numbered, that he is a very lame duck indeed.

  • andnowwhat

    Job cuts and associated insecurity, the tories in power, rioting in the streets?

    If only the Americans voted in some oul Republican ex actor it would be the 80’s all over again.

    Now, where’s my hair mouse?….actually, where’s my hair?

  • Anonymous

    This made me laugh out loud. A certain current accounting officer of a NICS department, when in a very senior role in a different government department, would openly use the exact same language at staff meetings during a long running pay dispute. Made the low paid there feel so appreciated. He was very popular.

    He got away with it though, because that department didn’t have a big culture of or appetite for industrial action. I’m delighted he’s gone on to bigger things these days and doing so so well too 😉 Ha.

  • an involved workforce is better in good times and even better in bad times. A culture of fear is exactly that – the fear that those a rung above feel when they see the potential of those below them to outshine/out perform. Weak managers can be very good at spreading their weakeness by creating a circle of fear where those in favour don’t want to be in it but fear being outside it. A horrible environment in which to work. Good article and thought provoking blog

  • joeCanuck

    Over here it is often called the Mushroom Style of Management. The staff are kept in the dark and occasionally a pile of shit is heaped on them.

  • RepublicanStones

    Not much chance of that sales associate scrambling his way up Maslow’s hierarchy in that particular environment.

  • Yer Woman

    Sounds like the Belfast Telegraph!

  • Michael

    Not long after I started in IT, which I naively assumed to be a meritocracy, my new unit director told me on a work night out after a few jars that I was a great lad and the best programmer in his team, BUT he would never of hired me if it was upto him.

    I was a bit taken aback and asked him why, and he replied that I wasn’t married, I had no car and no mortgage and therefore he had no hold over me like he had with the other guys.

    He was right in a way, as after a two or three more monthly ‘you are lucky to have a job’ team briefings, I upped and left and went to somewhere that didn’t try and threaten me with redundancy every other day for not working unpaid OT etc.

  • pinni

    What a 20th century comment!

  • William Markfelt

    It strikes me that, since the formation of the current NIA, its departments have operated very much a climate of fear in respect of numerous ‘investigations’ into alleged wrongdoing (usually unfounded and unproven).

    The current NIW debacle being discussed on these very pages smells, to some degree, like a climate of fear being induced in those unfortunate enough to be reliant on them for a salary.

    It’s essentially a culture of ‘shoot the odd admiral to encourage the others’, and the unspoken message is ‘careful, we’re watching, and this could happen to you’.

    Anyone who doesn’t feel this to be the case need only look at the number of investigations conducted since the formation of the NIA to see how this has very much become an essential tool in the NIA’s totalitarian-lite armoury.