Fear-based managing hurts your organization

I was talking to a friend recently, and she was telling me about the culture at her work. Apparently, one of the employees was getting reprimanded for sending too many emails to family and friends during the work hours. How did they know? Apparently, they actually monitor your internet usage during the day. Yep, big brother is watching.

And that’s not all… during a recent snowstorm, one of the office workers was nervous about her commute home. She decided to leave at 3:30 while it was still light out. When she told her boss that she was leaving early, her boss told her that her pay that day would be cut by an hour and a half for leaving early.

These two examples remind me of how ineffective it is to manage your employees using fear. I’ve worked for bosses where it felt like they were watching my every move. In my opinion, a few things happen when you manage this way:

1) Employees become far less invested in the company’s goals and visions. Apathy sets in, and employees spend more time looking at the clock than actually doing work.

2) Employees learn to be dishonest. Do you really think this management style forces employees to act differently? No way– instead, they learn to work around the system and deceive their bosses. Heck, there are even web sites that offer a how-to guide of how to look like you are working without actually doing any work. If you work in a fear-based office, check it out for some great time-wasters!

3) It sets up a culture of “us” versus “them.” In any organization, there is a hierarchy. The difference in a fear-based management system is that there becomes a clear divide between those who manage and those who do the work. This naturally leads to more gossip and more separation between the worker-bees and management.

At Punchbowl Software, we try to take the opposite approach. We have a grueling interview process to try and hire only the best and brightest. Our culture *begins* with the assumption of trust. We know that you may have business to attend to during the day — from dealing with your car to going to the dentist — and yes, even online Christmas shopping. While we don’t encourage you to spend your day browsing Amazon, we know that there will be things during the week that you want/need to do. We ask for open lines of communication, and we expect that you will still get your job done. At the end of the day, every person of Punchbowl Software knows exactly what’s expected of him/her — the objective is to help the company succeed and reach our goals.

Do you manage with a culture of fear? If so, are you getting the most out of your employees? In my opinion, managing with fear hurts your organization. If you feel stuck in this management style, it’s time to take a new approach. Start fresh by announcing the change to your employees. Begin to treat your employees with trust and respect and they’ll give you far more than you ever expected.

Oh.. and if you are a Punchbowl employee and are still reading this… get back to work!


Plan your next party or event at http://www.mypunchbowl.com


One Response to Fear-based managing hurts your organization

  1. Josh says:

    Great post! I think this is completely true. I have worked for several types of organizations in the legal field (ranging from large law firms to small offices) and I could not agree more.

    Another good technique (in my view) is demonstrating trust in the work product from day one on the job. In my current position, on my first day I was asked to recommend a final outcome on an important case. I could not believe the level of responsibility I had from the outset. This made me feel empowered–the default was that my boss trusted my judgment, which means that I did not necessarily have to do anything to “earn” that trust or show my worth. Instead, I had it already, and I just needed to maintain it. By beginning with a default of a high level of responsibility and trust, I immediately felt vested in the work and a part of the team. I think this is a better technique then beginning a job with menial tasks simply to prove you can do the job (which I have experienced in other settings)–I felt more motivated to do high quality work from the start because I knew that what I was doing was important, and that set the tone for all of my work.

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