I did not know what a fear-based workplace was the first time I started working in one. At first, I thought the problem was me.

Maybe I didn’t have the right clothes or know the right business jargon. I walked on eggshells at work. I went home anxious and discouraged every night.

Gradually it dawned on me that it wasn’t just me. My co-workers were uptight, too. No one was having a good time in our workplace. What made everyone so nervous and fearful?

It can take time to realize that you work in a fear-based environment. We can’t bear to think that we took a new job in a broken company!

A fear-based workplace is a place where fear is the predominant energy. A healthy workplace is one where trust is the predominant energy.

Trust and fear cannot co-exist in the same place. People who pretend they can co-exist are afraid to admit what their body knows: managerial fear overpowers trust every time.

Either the leaders in an organization trust their employees, or they don’t. A fearful CEO will hire yes-men and yes-women to work for them. Anyone with a backbone will not last working for the fearful (and fear-inducing) CEO

Confident leaders trust themselves enough to hire people they can trust.

They don’t watch their employees like hawks. They don’t enact rules and policies to cover every situation, because they know their employees will rise to every challenge.

They don’t set up control mechanisms to keep people from using their native smarts and ingenuity. They don’t measure every keystroke and every minute spent on any activity.

They know that focusing on their mission and big, shared goals is a million times more important than measuring everything in sight.

Lots of policies and yardsticks everywhere are unmistakable signs of a fear-based workplace. Measurement of non-essential things is the first sign of a workplace ruled by fear.

Here are ten more signs:

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Ten Signs of A Fear-Based Workplace

  • In a fear-based workplace, everyone is focused on their daily goals. They have to be because if they miss a goal, they could lose their job. You won’t get collaboration or innovation out of people who are scared to death!
  • In a fear-based culture, managers and HR people specialize in assigning work, measuring results, punishing infractions and maintaining order. In a healthy culture, managers and HR people specialize in listening to employees, problem-solving with them, celebrating successes and envisioning even greater successes!
  • In a fear-based environment, people are afraid to tell the truth because they already know no one wants to hear it. How do they know this? It’s obvious, because the biggest truth of all – namely, "Our culture is horrible, but bad things happen to people who say so" is never acknowledged. It is the elephant in the room.
  • In a fear-based company, people talk incessantly about who’s up and who’s down in the company stock index. The rumor mill is more credible than official communication. In a healthy company, managers and employees talk about sticky topics. They don’t avoid them just because they are awkward to address.
  • In a fear-based company, employees wonder whether they’ll still have a job next week. A great performance review or an on-the-job triumph does not guarantee anyone another week of employment. People work under a cloud of fear and suspicion. Managers are afraid to recognize and reinforce their teams, because they might get in trouble for doing so.
  • In a fear-based workplace, following rules and avoiding blame are every team’s top priorities. Collaborating, experimenting and having fun do not make the list. If there is a company mission statement on the wall, no one cares about it: the only mission employees can focus on is "Don’t screw up!"
  • In a fear-based environment, managers talk about collaboration and out-of-the-box thinking but no one takes them seriously. You cannot get collaboration or new ideas from beaten-down employees.
  • In a fear-based culture, employees disappear without warning. When someone disappears, people speak their names in whispers if they mention them at all.
  • In a fear-based workplace the smartest and most capable employees don’t get promoted. The people who get promoted are the ones who most wholeheartedly embrace the fear-based culture.
  • In a fear-based environment, the hardest thing to do is to stay human. When you keep your sense of humor, your warmth and your confidence despite the cloud of fear, you can expect to be labeled ‘unprofessional’ or worse.
  • If you work in a fear-based workplace, is there anything you can do about it apart from quitting your job?

    You can stand up for yourself and your co-workers but if you do, you have to be ready to get a job fast if you are pushed out the door for naming the elephant.

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    Continued from page 1

    They don’t watch their employees like hawks. They don’t enact rules and policies to cover every situation, because they know their employees will rise to every challenge.

    They don’t set up control mechanisms to keep people from using their native smarts and ingenuity. They don’t measure every keystroke and every minute spent on any activity.

    They know that focusing on their mission and the big, shared goals is a million times more important than measuring everything in sight.

    Lots of policies and yardsticks everywhere are unmistakable signs of a fear-based workplace. Measurement of non-essential things is the first sign of a workplace ruled by fear.

    Here are ten more signs:

    Shutterstock

    Ten Signs of A Fear-Based Workplace

  • In a fear-based workplace, everyone is focused on their daily goals. They have to be because if they miss a goal, they could lose their job. You won’t get collaboration or innovation out of people who are scared to death!
  • In a fear-based culture, managers and HR people specialize in assigning work, measuring results, punishing infractions and maintaining order. In a healthy culture, managers and HR people specialize in listening to employees, problem-solving with them, celebrating successes and envisioning even greater successes!
  • In a fear-based environment, people are afraid to tell the truth because they already know no one wants to hear it. How do they know this? It’s obvious, because the biggest truth of all – namely, "Our culture is horrible, and everyone knows it" is never acknowledged. It is the elephant in the room.
  • In a fear-based company, people talk incessantly about who’s up and who’s down in the company stock index. The rumor mill is more credible than official communication. In a healthy company, managers and employees talk about sticky topics. They don’t avoid them just because they are awkward to address.
  • In a fear-based company, employees wonder whether they will have a job next week. A great performance review or a triumph on the job does not guarantee you another month of employment. People work under a cloud of fear and suspicion. Managers are afraid to recognize and reinforce their teams — because they might get in trouble for doing so!
  • In a fear-based workplace, following rules and avoiding blame are the team’s top two priorities. Collaborating, experimenting and having fun do not make the list. If there is a company mission statement on the wall, no one cares about it: the only mission employees can focus on is "Don’t screw up!"
  • In a fear-based environment, clueless and tone-deaf managers talk about collaboration and out-of-the-box thinking but no one takes them seriously. You cannot get collaboration or new ideas from beaten-down employees.
  • In a fear-based culture, people disappear without warning. When someone disappears, people speak their names in whispers if they mention them at all.
  • In a fear-based workplace the smartest and most capable employees do not get promoted. The people who get promoted are the ones who most earnestly repeat the lies they are told to repeat.
  • In a fear-based environment, the hardest thing to do is stay human. When you keep your sense of humor, your warmth and your confidence despite the cloud of fear, you can expect to be labeled ‘unprofessional’ or worse.
  • If you work in a fear-based workplace, is there anything you can do about it apart from quitting your job?

    You can stand up for yourself and your co-workers but if you do, you have to be ready to get a job fast if you are pushed out the door for naming the elephant.

    Comment on this story

    I did not know what a fear-based workplace was the first time I started working in one. At first, I thought the problem was me.

    Maybe I didn’t have the right clothes or know the right business jargon. I walked on eggshells at work. I went home anxious and discouraged every night.

    Gradually it dawned on me that it wasn’t just me. My co-workers were uptight, too. No one was having a good time in our workplace. What made everyone so nervous and fearful?

    It can take time to realize that you work in a fear-based environment. We can’t bear to think that we took a new job in a broken company!

    A fear-based workplace is a place where fear is the predominant energy. A healthy workplace is one where trust is the predominant energy.

    Trust and fear cannot co-exist in the same place. People who pretend they can co-exist are afraid to admit what their body knows: managerial fear overpowers trust every time.

    Either the leaders in an organization trust their employees, or they don’t. A fearful CEO will hire yes-men and yes-women to work for them. Anyone with a backbone will not last working for the fearful (and fear-inducing) CEO

    Confident leaders trust themselves enough to hire people they can trust.

    They don’t watch their employees like hawks. They don’t enact rules and policies to cover every situation, because they know their employees will rise to every challenge.

    They don’t set up control mechanisms to keep people from using their native smarts and ingenuity. They don’t measure every keystroke and every minute spent on any activity.

    They know that focusing on their mission and big, shared goals is a million times more important than measuring everything in sight.

    Lots of policies and yardsticks everywhere are unmistakable signs of a fear-based workplace. Measurement of non-essential things is the first sign of a workplace ruled by fear.

  • In a fear-based workplace, everyone is focused on their daily goals. They have to be because if they miss a goal, they could lose their job. You won’t get collaboration or innovation out of people who are scared to death!
  • In a fear-based culture, managers and HR people specialize in assigning work, measuring results, punishing infractions and maintaining order. In a healthy culture, managers and HR people specialize in listening to employees, problem-solving with them, celebrating successes and envisioning even greater successes!
  • In a fear-based environment, people are afraid to tell the truth because they already know no one wants to hear it. How do they know this? It’s obvious, because the biggest truth of all – namely, "Our culture is horrible, but bad things happen to people who say so" is never acknowledged. It is the elephant in the room.
  • In a fear-based company, people talk incessantly about who’s up and who’s down in the company stock index. The rumor mill is more credible than official communication. In a healthy company, managers and employees talk about sticky topics. They don’t avoid them just because they are awkward to address.
  • In a fear-based company, employees wonder whether they’ll still have a job next week. A great performance review or an on-the-job triumph does not guarantee anyone another week of employment. People work under a cloud of fear and suspicion. Managers are afraid to recognize and reinforce their teams, because they might get in trouble for doing so.
  • In a fear-based workplace, following rules and avoiding blame are every team’s top priorities. Collaborating, experimenting and having fun do not make the list. If there is a company mission statement on the wall, no one cares about it: the only mission employees can focus on is "Don’t screw up!"
  • In a fear-based environment, managers talk about collaboration and out-of-the-box thinking but no one takes them seriously. You cannot get collaboration or new ideas from beaten-down employees.
  • In a fear-based culture, employees disappear without warning. When someone disappears, people speak their names in whispers if they mention them at all.
  • In a fear-based workplace the smartest and most capable employees don’t get promoted. The people who get promoted are the ones who most wholeheartedly embrace the fear-based culture.
  • In a fear-based environment, the hardest thing to do is to stay human. When you keep your sense of humor, your warmth and your confidence despite the cloud of fear, you can expect to be labeled ‘unprofessional’ or worse.
  • If you work in a fear-based workplace, is there anything you can do about it apart from quitting your job?

    You can stand up for yourself and your co-workers but if you do, you have to be ready to get a job fast if you are pushed out the door for naming the elephant.