47A friend of mine called me last night. "The company I work for, is totally fear-soaked," she said. "I would be grateful if you give me any advice how to survive management by fear."
"Hmm, advice different from quitting your job, I suppose? ", I laughed but it was not funny at all.
It got me thinking. On a grand scale, history has taught us that ruling through fear based supervision have toppled over and crumbled in the long run. Fear-trampled environment is purely ineffective and can sabotage a company's efforts to maintain productivity in the workplace. But truth to be told, under specific circumstances and for a short period of time it delivers results – by creating sense of urgency, demanding irrevocable compliance and instilling high speed of execution. But the good news end up here. As it is ALWAYS about a short-term win and a big-time failure.
Fear shuts down our ability to think creatively, collaborate, and bring passion to the job. When getting through the day requires a focus on keeping one's head down, taking no risks, and just pleasing anyone in management, your organization's soul has left the room.
But how to beat the fear back and survive in a fear-infused environment? Here are my thoughts below:
1. First, assess the scale of the problem. Tough management actions might reflect market pressure or suboptimal business performance but not necessarily mean management-by-fear approach. Here are some unmistakable signs of a fear-based culture:
• Employees are preoccupied with how they're perceived by managers higher up the chain and with whose stock is rising and whose is falling in the company's internal stock index.
• An obsession with metrics, daily, weekly, and hourly, and a world where the numeric goals overrule the quality and meaning of work. Supervisors imprint the abusive notion that the employees should consider themselves fortunate that they are employed, considering people as a means to an end.
• Overdependence on policies and internal procedures as a result of distrust reigning. The backstabbing, rumors, politics, and unethical behaviors are just behind the corner.
• People hoard what they know to consolidate their power, management considers lateral communication suspect, decision making secret and behind closed doors, "Why" questions not allowed, explanations not offered. Top-down ultimate commands are off the charts. No discussions, nor ideas and thinking are allowed.
• The organizational culture is defined by people you hire, promote and reward. When the people who get rewarded and promoted are the least-knowledgeable but most-fawning yes-men in the org chart, fear has come to town.
2. Most of the corporate tyrants are clever, ambitious and career driven, with obvious professional expertise but absolutely lacking people skills. Try to consider their strengths despite of the frustrating limitations and decide is there something you could learn from them. Urge yourself to see them as experts and pick your takeaways wisely.
3. Management by fear is often a sign of limited managerial experience and self-confidence. Try to give your executives a sense of security and control. Make sure you are clear about the management expectations and do your best to provide quick, simple and quality results.
4. Don't take it personal – more often than not it's not about you at all but about them who are part of a cliquish brotherhood. They even don't bother to get to know you so do not get emotional. I know how huge the disappointment may rise but stick to your agenda and your personal goals as focused as you can be. In this particular case, it's just a job not your life. Unless you'd like to join their club, this is not your game.
5. Build strong support network. In my experience, this had been lifesaving. Surround yourself with positive and friendly colleagues and avoid being immersed in hatred and defeatism. Stay fair and ethical to your team and just do the right thing. Developing coping strategy doesn't mean copying the fear-whipped style.
6. Assess your ability to endure the current state and craft out your exit strategy cleverly. Leaving is always your last resort, and it's just a sheet of paper away. Ultimately, it is a matter of choice. Your choice!
The "presumed guilty" mentality fosters sheeplike compliance rather than energy and achievement, cuffs creativity and initiative, banishes your best talent away, leaving behind a boneless organisation with meek, submissive and broken-down employees, causing more damage to the business than one could imagine.
So, what is your survival story? Please do share with us.
Best regards,

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