Estimated reading time: 10 minutes
Editor’s note: Today at Zyncro, we have the honor of welcoming a new blog contributor, Sonia Rodríguez Muriel. Passionate about HR, she is HR and media director at the Andalusian Agency for Innovation and Development IDEA. Her personal blog, which we highly recommend at Zyncro, is as she says “an open space dedicated to reflection on issues associated with people management, incorrectly called Human Resources.” Thanks for joining Zyncro’s team of bloggers, Sonia. Welcome 😉
If we think about one of the words we have heard most in recent months, regardless of the context, I’m sure it would be: FEAR.
People who work in business have many fears, which is nothing strange, especially given the harmful messages that some politicians dish out as if nothing, the headlines and photos that make the front pages on a daily basis or the images that are shown all too often on the TV.
Fear of losing jobs, fear of downsizing, fear of not getting the next paycheck, fear of a merger, fear of the company’s uncertain future, fear of failure, fear of salary drops, fear of restructurizations… FEAR.
What attitude does the company’s general management adopt in this situation? Does it add fuel to the fire or does it make an effort to build confidence and trust among its employees when they are afraid?
Fear has been used as a mechanism for control and social domination for a long time. We have lived so many centuries in a culture of fear and with a system of absolute iron control in companies that now it is hard to break. On some occasions, there isn’t even any intention whatsoever to do away with this obsolete model.
Fear blocks, paralyzes, rules out creativity, prevents growth in an organization and in professional development. Fear generates insecurity; we see the environment as being more aggressive and causes us to enter into a dangerous dynamic: a downward spiral of fear. Fear builds other new worries and they start to grow indefinitely, leading us away from where we can be constructive and face our own fears and break the spiral. As Sophocles said: “To him who is in fear everything rustles”.
The figure of the toxic coward in every company is no help either. They are people who find someone to share and reinforce their fears and flee from the optimist, preferring to adopt a critical and/or defeatist attitude, and who need to be surrounded by likeminded people. Unconsciously, they seek out bad news, rumors and new fears. For others, it is easy to be swayed by these negative emotions rather than be affected by someone who sees life with a more positive attitude. The paradoxical situation may even arise where someone who is fearless, proactive and dynamic becomes threatened by the toxic coward. What’s more, if the coward is a director or a middle manager, their harmful influence on the work environment is multiplied by 100.
If our excuse to allowing ourselves be dominated by fear is that it is impossible to take a different attitude in the current socioeconomic context, I encourage you to seek out experiences where worse situations have been overcome. A good example of this can be seen in “Man’s Search for Meaning”. Viktor Frankl was an Austrian psychiatrist of Jewish origin who had a promising career. When the Nazi threat was more than evident, he obtained a visa to emigrate to the United States with his pregnant wife to continue working there. But Frankl let this visa expire, as he did not want to abandon his parents. Shortly after, the entire family was taken to a concentration camp and among other unpleasant incidents, the manuscript containing his work was destroyed.
He survived his experience in the concentration camp, overcoming the idea of his own suicide several times to see how pessimism in the other prisoners brought them to self-abandonment and finally death. After feeling defeated on several occasions, he was capable of remembering his work, finding meaning to life, and when he was released, he was able to rebuild his career with much effort, despite the loss of all his loved ones and his traumatic experience.
For Viktor Frankl, “life deserves to be lived beyond the circumstances and the inability to discover the meaning of our existence is what brings Man to lose inner balance and hence, to bring him to desperation.”
Returning to the laboral front again, it is evident that we need help in not letting ourselves be overcome by fear and seeing the current situation as an opportunity and not a threat. As Pilar Jerico says in her fantastic book No miedo (NoFear), “only those who have power can generate fear”, so creating an atmosphere of confidence and undoing a management based on fear is the responsibility of the company’s leadership. It is one that should be worked to include emotionally intelligent leaders who make their teams grow and generate confidence and trust, the key to fighting fear.
Uncertainty can be a danger in a company! Those who believe information is power can cause more harm than good. Organizations are porous so it is unlikely that the information that management doesn’t want to share stays completely within their grasp. The worse thing is when it reaches lower levels in the organization, the message has little to do with the original one and has deteriorated even further.
The greatest challenge for companies at present is to manage, generating confidence and trust to reduce growing fears, and above all, to not create new ones. To do this, it is essential to develop a corporate culture that doesn’t punish error and encourages employees to innovate, share and take risks, that promotes talent and people on a human and emotional level. To achieve this, it is paramount to find the right motivation for employees and to leave behind management by control mechanisms once and for all, adopting a new model of collaboration.
Once again internal communication becomes the cornerstone. The language that the company’s management uses when speaking with their employees; a lack of communication, coherence between discourse and behavior, and the insecurity that it generates only feeds fear in the organization and creates new worries.
Corporate social responsibility, as in vogue as it is in recent years, means the company is responsible for, among other questions, maintaining a healthy, safe working environment and the physical and psychological wellbeing of its workers.
Management plays a fundamental role and the type of leadership it uses or promotes will depend largely on the work environment .
But if this argument isn’t convincing enough for some CEOs, maybe we should talk about the financial side of things. The working environment is a factor that has a major effect on productivity in the organization. Employees can’t give their best if they are not committed and without confidence and trust, there cannot be commitment.
If we want to have employees committed to the organization, we need to establish open, transparent dialog with them to win their credibility. And reinforce that credibility with the rest of the company’s policies.
Being a good professional is conditioned by the working environment and we are all responsible for generating a positive atmosphere, regardless of what our position is. Our mood infects our colleagues and co-workers, so why not think about what we are really transmitting to others?
“Under the influence of fear, which always leads men to take a pessimistic view of things, they magnified their enemies’ resources, and minimized their own.”