“In time we hate that which we often fear.”
-William Shakespeare

In a recent article for Bloomsburg Businessweek entitled “Ten signs you work in a fear-based workplace” Liz Ryan wrote the following.

“The U.S. financial crisis has caused fear in the boardroom, and that unease trickles down to every worker. The principal signs of a fear-soaked senior leadership are a preoccupation with looking out for No. 1, a clampdown on consensus-building conversations, and the shunning or ousting of anyone so bold or naive as to tell the truth about what he or she believes. We've seen the fear epidemic hit dozens of major firms over the past few years, and it isn't pretty. When a leadership team's attention turns from "How can we do the right thing for our customers and employees?" to "How can we keep our stature, our jobs, and the status quo intact, at any cost?" then fear officially rules the roost.”

She then went on to list the following signs of a fear-based workplace.

· Appearances are everything

· Everyone is talking about who's rising and who's falling

· Distrust reigns

· Numbers rule and rules number in the thousands.

· Management considers lateral communication suspect

· Information is hoarded

· Brown-nosers rule

· 'The Office' evokes sad chuckles, rather than laughs.

· Management leads by fear

Do any of these signs sound familiar? Ever worked or are you currently working in a fear-based workplace? Are you part of a leadership team in a fear-based workplace? Think about your answers. And while you are thinking I have one more question. How can recruiters function in a fear-based workplace?

Recruiters sell. They sell the opportunity and they sell the company to prospective candidates. They sell the hiring manager on the candidate’s capabilities and fit for the position. When a hire is made they want to hear the good news, after all recruiters are good news junkies. Good recruiters take a long view when it comes to sourcing, screening, selecting and managing the candidate relationship. Nothing would satisfy a recruiter more than seeing a new hire eventually become a hiring manager in the company.

None of this is possible in a fear-based workplace. Good recruiters can’t sell that which is not true. They can’t sell opportunity or the company to their candidates if they know that within the first 90 days the new employee will discover how fear-based the workplace is, and begin to look elsewhere.

Sadly what ends up happening is that good recruiters shy away from a fear-based workplace and take their talents elsewhere. The fear-based workplace is left with a recruiting staff that reflects the rest of the work force, and exhibiting many of the signs listed above.

Over time a fear-based workplace may change, may realize that a fear-based approach to running a business has no upside and lessens the value of the business in the market place and to its stakeholders. This happens only rarely.

If you are a good recruiter still working in a fear-based workplace getting your company to change may seem impossible. Perhaps the best that you can do is document the reasons candidates turn offers down, the reasons new hires leave within a short period of time, the perception of your company from others in your industry, the number of good employees who were recruited by your competitors. And when you decide to take your talents elsewhere, give this documentation to someone in the company who may be in a position to take away the fear.

So if you work in a fear-based company do you hate your job? Or is it like Shakespeare said, “Much Ado about nothing.”

Views: 118

Comment by Dana Leavy on July 26, 2010 at 2:48pm
Great article Nick - not that it's an excuse for people to stay in a negative mindset around their work, but I think many appreciate the idea that possibly it's gotten out of their control, the negativity spiraling through the workplace. Leave a lot of us sitting there day to day pondering whether it's better to stay in a negative, potentially unproductive environment, or venture out looking for new work in an unstable job market. Hmmm....
Comment by Lori Siets on July 27, 2010 at 8:19pm
Thought provoking article Nick! It underscores the fact that a good company culture begins at the top of the organization. A fear based company culture can be created almost overnight with an abrupt change in the senior leadership of an organization. Too often, companies embrace the extreme narcissist as their new CEO. Narcissistic leaders are not capable of coaching and mentoring. In fact, their management style of choice is a ruling dictatorship. Collaboration, teamwork and employee development is virtually non-existent under their reign. Sadly, in a fear based company culture low morale, high employee turnover and revenue losses become the expected “new “norm.


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