Fear: Behind the Manager-Employee Divide

We often don’t realize how many of our decisions and behaviors are a response to fear. Fear of failure, fear of losing the esteem of others, fear of conflict, these are all common, and understandable, fears that we have. Fear serves an important function — it protects us from harm — however, more often than not, the “dangers” we fear are imagined or things we have absolutely no control over. This becomes problematic because, when we let fear guide us — causing us to try to control the world around us, blame or judge others to make ourselves feel better, remain firmly planted in our comfort zones, among other ways  — we put up walls with others and cut ourselves off from our most creative, authentic selves.

My view is we need to help people get out of the grip of fear in business, a sphere where this emotion has a particularly strong hold. Through decades of working with businesspeople and managers, I’ve come to believe that the only thing more powerful than fear is love, and that leading from love is the only way to truly thrive in the business world.

A key area is a manager’s relationships with employees, as this can often be one of the biggest sources of stress and tension. So I wasn’t surprised to read that a recent Harris survey found that nearly 70% of managers are “often uncomfortable” communicating with employees. The survey highlighted a few situations in particular — giving feedback when they believe the employee might respond negatively, demonstrating vulnerability, and crediting others with good ideas — that managers are particularly averse to, but the majority cited communicating in general as uncomfortable. This discomfort stems from a host of fears that are holding managers back from the very important responsibility of having frequent, constructive, honest dialogue with employees.

In business there are many occasions for difficult conversations, and communication can be challenging, but it is essential to success — of the business, the employees and leaders. Avoiding communication, communicating inauthentically, and engaging in harmful or hurtful communication are all common behaviors in the business world, and all indicate that fear is at the helm. These behaviors disappear however, when managers shift to letting love and compassion be their guide. To make workplaces healthier, happier, more productive environments, and to drive true success and growth, we need leaders to rise above their fear to love.