Breaking the Fear Barrier by Tom Rieger

This article was inspired by Tom Rieger's Breaking the Fear Barrier . If you enjoy this article then consider purchasing or borrowing the book.


How to Prevent Fear from Destroying Your Company

“A company’s worst enemy is not always the competition. Sometimes it’s the fear that lives within its own walls.”

With the economic crisis of 2008, loss of money or status terrifies most Americans today. A recent poll demonstrated that 50% of workers in the US felt like “prisoners” at the workplace.

When those in organizational positions allow fear to influence their decisions, the entire company suffers as a whole. One of the most cancerous of fears is the “fear of loss.” Employees will stop at nothing to ensure that they have the benefits they feel entitled to. They will even hurt your company if it means they remain safe.

Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky’s research suggests that the fear of losing an “entitlement” outweighs the happiness associated with receiving such a blessing in the first place. Workers will erect barriers in their organization to protect themselves, even if it harms the business.

The negative consequences of a bureaucracy can be split up into three categories:

  1. “Parochialism” – Department managers often create regulations on their departments that separate them from the rest of the company as a whole. These rules ignore the company’s interests, while meeting the self-serving needs of the managers. Conquer this fear driven problem by eliminating useless rules that serve the interests of select groups.
  2. “Territorialism” – Departments fight amongst themselves over resources and the attention of the higher management. Barriers are erected between departments. Remind employees that they are part of a larger organization. Give departments plenty of time to finish projects and eliminate unneeded administrative assignments.
  3. “Empire building” – Expressing control over their own departments and afraid of working outside their areas of power, managers seek to create empires by expanding their influence within the company. By reducing territorialism, empire building will naturally decline. Managers guilty of empire building will want to control sources of information, funds, and resources. By keeping these factors out of an empire builder’s hands, you will automatically reduce this fear driven practice. When giving manager’s power, don’t let politics come into play.

Companies today expect that employees will make moral choices for the benefit of the organization without reward. Human nature suggests just the opposite. Rather than expecting workers to sacrifice for your company, provide incentives for them to do so. Deal with fearful managers who practice intimidation and favoritism in the office. Base the company’s decision making on its mission statement.

Your firm can achieve so much more when employees put fear aside. By empowering your employees and reminding workers to focus on the overall goal of the organization rather than personal interests, you can prevent fear from destroying your company internally, while maximizing the effectiveness of your employees’ labor.

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