In a recent article in SHRM’s HR magazine, Dori Meinert asked, “Do you have a workplace culture of fear?” I hope that answer is no, but I also wonder if most people even truly realize whether it is or not.
A friend of mine was working in an organization that was lauded with being a best place to work, known to be a very difficult place to get an interview, where job openings were only a small percentage compared to applications received; yet, my friend went to work everyday feeling significant pressure to produce, dreaded going in to work, and didn’t feel she had anyone in her office she could discuss this with. She was ready to walk out the door of this very reputable organization.
Do you feel this way? Do your employees?
If the answer to these questions are yes, you and your organization have likely created a culture of communication and trust. If most answers are no, you might have a culture of fear. This fear might permeate throughout the organization, or it could reside within a department or location.
In her article, Meinert refers to the book The Psychology of Fear in Organizations by Sheila Keegan. “At the end of the day,” Keegan says, “the more we can trust each other and work together, the more effective we are going to be”. True, but this may be easier said than done. I believe we each have to take responsibility for our culture. Whether we are employees, managers, or owners, we owe each other respect, an ear for listening, and the opportunity to do what we do best.
My friend finally went to HR and was almost immediately transferred to a new position where she is thriving. She truly believes she is in a top notch organization and she shared her concerns about her fears. Did they have a culture of fear? I don’t know, but I know for sure it was real for her. I’m not completely sure why the culture wasn’t working for her or if anything changed in that department, but she did what was right for her and the organization. She is now doing what she does best, and the organization and its customers are benefiting from that.