Last month, I talked about destructive and even abusive ways that managers and supervisors sometimes treat employees.

As I mentioned, fear-drenched employees won’t do a (positive) thing for your business.  You’ll lose the brightest, bravest ones (along with market share) to a competitor’s trust-based culture; those who are totally beaten down won’t leave, but they’ll spend much of the day hiding under their desks.

If you don’t have a reputation for insightful sensitivity, then you may be missing some important clues—clues that your employees are too fearful to be productive:

• Your employees seem preoccupied with staying in the office later than you do
• They seem to worry less about the quality of their work and more about how they’re perceived by you and others higher up the chain
• They avoid others or you and/or don’t volunteer for assignments
• There’s little or no “boat rocking” disagreement in meetings and no kidding around in casual situations – meetings, the break room, hallways, etc.
• Problems seem to get swept under the rug and only creep out when they’re too large to hide
• The most obvious sign: Increasing absenteeism, resignations or requests for transfers

How can you turn your workplace around, to replace a culture of anxiety with one of positive energy and output?  It isn’t easy; management by fear is a hard habit to break, because fear-whipped underlings don’t protest. But you could start here:

Set sensible performance goals. Often in a toxic culture, there’s an obsession with metrics – daily, weekly, hourly, you name it. It’s as if employees are nothing but the sum total of their numeric achievements. View your employees as the complex, creative, multifaceted contributors they are, and consider metrics as just one element of their value.

Let up on the policy reins. Untrusting organizations believe their employees aren’t capable of making sensible decisions regarding everyday situations such as booking a business trip, ordering a stapler, or extending a lunch with a client. Thus, they install lengthy, tedious policies to keep employees from “doing the wrong thing” or even thinking for themselves. If your policies are heavy-handed, replace them with smart hiring and common sense.

Stop supporting sycophants. If your employees’ modus operandi is to keep their heads down, take no risks, and suck up to anyone in management, your organization’s soul has left the building. And if the employees who get rewarded are those with the least knowledge but the most fawning approach, it’s no wonder that others don’t address the lingering herd of elephants in the room.  Prove that you value courage by supporting those who speak up.

Nurturing your employees isn’t just the right thing to do; it’s the smart thing to do. Set loose to solve tough problems, your secure employees will use their creativity, intelligence, and energy to generate innovation and produce your company’s greatest achievements.

If your organization would like a keynote speech or training program
on this or other topics, contact Jeanne Baer at  (402) 475-1127 or
visit me on the web at
Copyright 2011 Creative Training Solutions