When it comes to managing people, one of the greatest challenges may, in fact, be protecting employees from themselves. Specifically, you’re tasked with keeping fear from influencing their daily decision making. If you can learn to do this successfully, you’ll get a lot more out of your human capital.
The Danger of Fear
From an HR perspective, fear is one of the single biggest risks your company faces. This may seem strange in a world where threats are all around us, but it’s true.
'Psychologists say that when we are in a state of fear, we compromise our ability to process thoughts and events rationally,' business coach Lea McLeod writes. 'Our brain wants to protect us by sending us in a direction away from the pain point.'
So, when your employees experience fears, their focus, output, and efficiency are compromised. If you don’t do anything about these fears, the results can be catastrophic for your business.
3 Common Fears Your Employees Experience
If you want to be more cognizant of what your team is going through, you’ll have to begin by understanding their fears. Let’s take a quick look at three of the biggest ones.
1. Fear of Failure
For a lot of employees, fear of failure is strongest. In many cases, it’s so intense that it influences every single decision they make. This is something entrepreneur Sam Ovens has a lot of firsthand experience with. In the early days of starting his own business, he focused on what could go wrong – especially when it came to pitching his business to people.
'For me, the pain of failure was more painful than the pain of talking to people,' Ovens tells The Epoch Times. He eventually overcame this fear by reverse engineering his negative thoughts.
As an employer, you need to recognize that your employees – particularly sales folks – confront the fear of failure on a daily basis. Having said that, are you doing enough to encourage and instill confidence? You should be reinforcing the idea that rejection is not always a sign of failure. Promote persistence and establish manageable metrics by which employees can more accurately gauge performance.
2. Fear of the Unknown
Another thing many employees struggle with is fear of the unknown. They’re paralyzed by the thought of change and are constantly worried about how it’ll impact their job. And unless you address this fear, they’re going to be chronically burdened by it.
'Employees must see the value of a change before they will accept it,' management expert Robert Tanner says. 'Identify the positive benefits of the change that is needed and explain why the desirable future is better than the current reality.'
It’s also important for you to over-communicate with your team. By providing clear direction and pointing out new developments well ahead of time, you can help offset some of the challenges associated with change.
Finally, make sure you’re modeling the behaviors that you want them to adopt. 'There are few situations that are more troubling to followers than to learn that their leader does not ‘walk the talk,’ Tanner believes. 'This breeds cynicism and heightens employee fears that the change you advocate will not be positive. From their perspective, if you do not believe in the change enough to implement the required behaviors yourself then why should they do it.'
3. Fear of Confrontation
The third prevalent anxiety is the fear of confrontation. Many employees fear conflict and will do everything they possibly can to avoid it altogether. And while there’s something to be said for not stirring up trouble, confrontation is necessary in order for a business to thrive.
If you have a bunch of employees who aren’t willing to address difficult topics or call each other out when something’s wrong, you probably can’t move forward. If anything, you’re moving backwards.
While it won’t be comfortable, you need to put your employees in a position where they can become more proactive. Encourage tough conversations and support those who speak up. You also have to learn how to reject your own passive tendencies and lead by example. Again, it’s not easy – but it’s what your employees need.
Don’t Ignore Fears Any Longer
Your employees aren’t likely to be transparent about their fears. Their impression is that fear is a weakness that needs to be hidden from you. With that being said, the only way to make progress on this front is to take the first step. Understand what your employees are going through and establish an environment in which they can thrive.
They’ll be happier, you’ll get more out of them, and your bottom line will reflect this.