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9. Fears That Hamper
without knowing it, leaders can cause apprehension or fear among employees,
causing a work culture whose unwritten law is "Play it safe." Employees avoid
taking risks or speaking out.
fear is a bottom-up, top-down and across-the-organization process," management
coach Arthur Ciancutti wrote in the book, "Built
on Trust: Gaining Competitive Advantage in Any Organization," to be
published in November by Contemporary Publishing Group Inc.
heads the Learning Center, California-based business-research firm whose
clients have included IBM Corp., Boeing Co. and Ford Aerospace.
uncertainty in the workplace have several causes, most of which hamper
productivity and competitiveness, the authors say. Below are some of the more
someone is called on the carpet for voicing a disagreement, it almost always
means that the agenda of the person doing the 'calling' has become more
important than the team's agenda."
Limiting beliefs. Teams often develop negative beliefs about themselves
without realizing it; those beliefs are often the result of subtle messages
sent by leaders. Common limiting beliefs: "We've always done it this way." "We
don't have the resources." "Top management doesn't support us." "You have to go
along the get along."
limited beliefs produce limited results, unlimited beliefs can produce
unlimited benefits, the authors stress. "One of the reasons certain start-ups
succeed where larger companies fail is that the people running the start-ups
don't know their ideas are considered preposterous (and so they try them out
without fear of failure)," Ciancutti said.
people often explain later that they were too ignorant to know their idea
wouldn't work," the authors said.
Negative attitude toward risk. If a company's climate is risk-avers,
risks are avoided by employees regardless of their possible
risks are encouraged with risk-taking guidelines, an idea-rich environment
often results, moving the company forward in sometimes unexpected ways. Team
spirit is usually one of the first benefits.
acknowledges the possibility of failure, but is approached with an explicitly
stated 'we are all in this together' team attitude," Ciancutti said.
Penalties for risks that fail. Sound risks can't be encouraged at the
outset and punished when they fail. Team members shouldn't fear risk outcomes,
the authors emphasize.
Discouragement of dissent. "Disagreements are a sign that creativity is
operatingand the team will figure out very quickly whether or not the
leader really wants to hear dissenting views," Ciancutti said.
Structural defects. "These include 'acting' positions such as 'acting
president' and 'acting sales manager.' 'Acting' communicates reservations about
the person playing the role, and it says that more change is
comingpossibly accompanied by further disruption. The team keeps waiting
for the other shoe to drop, and this lack of certainty is a breeding ground for
fear" and apprehension, they said.
structural defects include leadership positions that are left unfilled for
extended periods, changes in leadership without explanation, people given extra
leadership roles they don't have time to fill, and "'watchdog' positions whose
sole purpose is to observe and critique other," Ciancutti said.
leadership positions change suddenly or are left open, management should keep
communication lines open with everyone concerned, the author says.