Do your employees feel like they work in a fearful environment? It’s an important question. If they do, they’re much more likely to quit and seek employment elsewhere. It seems like common sense, but you might be surprised to learn how many organizations fail to create a workplace that is motivating and inspiring rather than fearful. But as an employer, how can you know if you’ve created a fearful environment? According to an article in Bloomberg Businessweek, there are many signs of a fear-based workplace.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that fear is the ultimate culture killer – reducing productivity, driving stress levels, and worst of all, reducing employee retention. Fortunately, there are ways to prevent a fear-based culture from forming.
Here are some steps you can take to reduce fear within your organization.
Confront poor behavior immediately.
Failing to confront bad behavior can create tension and conflict. When you don’t take corrective action, employees can lose trust in their employer to handle bad behavior effectively. Even more troubling, the bad behavior likely goes against your mission and values, and your employees may stop believing in your company’s dedication to its purpose. Values can’t just be defined; they need to be upheld.
If an employee engages in bad behavior, address the problem immediately so it doesn’t spiral out of control. Provide the appropriate discipline, and create a Performance Improvement Plan to help the troubled employee get back on track. By taking action, you’ll show your team that you take workplace culture and corporate values seriously.
Promote open communication.
One of the biggest drivers of workplace fear is uncertainty. When employees feel like they can’t express their thoughts or concerns freely with their managers, they can begin to feel nervous and insecure in their abilities. To reduce fear, leaders need to bridge communication barriers and promote two-way communication among managers and their direct reports.
It’s also important to regularly seek employee feedback so that employees’ concerns can be addressed head on, in a respectful and efficient manner. Open communication practices also allow leaders to set clear expectations for workplace practices and protocols so that employees understand what’s expected of them.
Be transparent and authentic.
Employees who distrust their employer will be quick to look for work at another organization. It’s imperative that you build trust within your organization by being transparent with your employees. Rather than keep company-wide decisions a secret, make employees aware of substantial issues that affect them, such as layoffs and executive leadership changes.
Even though some decisions cannot be shared right away, you can make a point to keep your employees as informed as possible. Employees who find out about organizational decisions through public announcements or the office grapevine are likely to lose respect and trust for their leaders.
Be proactive, not reactive.
If you lead by fear, you’ll create a culture of fear. Often the most fear-based workplaces are ones where its leaders react to situations, rather than prepare ahead of time for potential issues.
Leaders who keep employees in the dark and choose only to engage during times of crisis will set a standard for poor communication and relationship-building among their team. But what’s more detrimental is the lack of trust employees feel when they have no control over or knowledge of work situation. For example, rather than disciplining an employee for executing a procedure incorrectly, put processes in place to make sure all employees are informed of the proper protocol beforehand. Being proactive about communicating critical information, rather than impulsively reacting, will reduce employees’ uncertainty and allow them to feel valued by their managers. It will also make employees feel like they are empowered to succeed.
No matter how your run your organization, remember that fear is never the answer. Effective leadership is highly dependent on your organization’s ability to empower employees to reach their fullest potential, and this is only accomplished with a collaborative culture, genuine leadership, and commitment to the well-being of your workforce. The earlier you can identity signs of fear within your organization, the sooner you can counteract the negative effects and implement strategies to make a positive impact.