Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Fear in the Workplace

These days it seems we are existing in a world loaded with concern. Things change constantly, and forecasts of tragedy and gloom can be overwhelming. Misunderstandings or concern about the long run can cause our thoughts to turn into stress and worry, both in our life and on the job. Should managers do something about this?

Psychologists say there is no such thing as "healthy" fear. It drains people of their inner-resources, and interferes with performance. Outcomes which are based on fear are often negative, and affect quality of life at home and work.

So how can we detect fear in the workplace?

Is short-term thinking the status quo in your organisation?

With monthly targets, or weekly deadlines, a company can very quickly switch to thinking in only the short-term. When everyone is focused on the here and now and the demands of the day there can be little time left for long range planning. As this goes on over time people lose touch with the larger aims of the company, and are left without a greater purpose. This results in a company that cannot see the wood for the trees, and a disatisfied and poorly performing workforce.

Is your workplace very competitive?

Competition between departments or employees creates pressure, and this can cause anxiety which cascades into a variety of negative behaviours that destroys the positive environment of the workplace. Often employees will hide or alter the information they give to management to avoid repercussions. Performance can suffer with employees spending too much time focused on threats and thinking about ways to eliminate them.

Things you can do:

  •  Communication. Make sure your employees have all the information they need to do their job, and are consulted regularly about their opinions.
  •  Clarify perceptions. Ascertain whether employees are doing things they are uncomfortable with or disagree with. Do people understand what is expected of them?
  •  Establish trust. Is there an appropriate level of trust within your organisation? Do co-workers trust one another? Is there any inter-departmental distrust? Do your employees believe in you?
  •  Training. Are you developing your employees? Are they fully qualified? Can they receive more training?

A clear statement of purpose, a reaffirmation of the goals and ambitions of the company, can nullify the detrimental effects of fear. Those companies that manage fear efficiently experience reduced absenteeism, less issues of conflict and better interaction. Less time is spent on reacting to real or imagined threats, and more time is spent on improvement and innovation.


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