Welcome To The Fear Factory

We most often don’t fear trying, even possibly failing…what we do fear is how others will look at us and what they will say…


Whether real or imagined…it exists.

In our minds, in our lives, and in our organizations.

The scary thing about fear…is just how big a role it still plays in our 21st century, modern organizations.  According to Notter and Grant…“Fear is arguably the most important source of dysfunction in organizations today.”

Unfortunately, we do our leadership and our organizations a real disservice when we try to dismiss it away…whether real or perceived, it is there.

It exists…

And when fear exists…learning and action come to a screeching halt in our organizations.  Creativity and innovation are quickly replaced with status quo and self-preservation.

In an environment of fear, the best ideas and thoughts are kept close to the chest.  It is better fly under the radar.  Lay low…remain anonymous.

Which is why status quo and self-preservation are often found at the helm of those organizations where fear is pervasive.

And it is not just creativity and innovation that suffer at the feet of fear.  According to Pfeffer and Sutton in The Knowing-Doing Gap“Fear also inhibits the ability to turn knowledge into action because people are so afraid of their bosses that they do everything they can to avoid being the one delivering bad news about the company, even if they are not to blame.”  

Great leaders understand that feedback serves as the cornerstone of organizational learning.  Growth and capacity-building happen in an environment of feedback…whether that feedback is good or bad, it is necessary.  And when that flow of is cut-off, so is the lifeblood that feeds learning and growth to the organization.

Fear paralyzes that process…because bad news is just not tolerated in the Fear Factory.

Pfeffer and Sutton add that…“People…will avoid bringing negative information to light, even if such information is essential for turning knowledge into action.  People will avoid making suggestions for improvement if doing so first means implying that something is wrong.”

Knowledge, learning, creativity, and innovation…are all vital to our modern, 21st century organizations.  All of which require sharing and the creation of collaborative flows in our organizations.

Unfortunately, when fear exists…those channels close up and close off.

Pfeffer and Sutton add…“In organizations where there is fear of being blamed for short-term problems, people will focus on individual self-preservation rather than the collective good.”

In the Fear Factory…we lose our focus on the greater good.  We spend our limited time focused on our own self-preservation.  And for that reason, we find it difficult to focus on the greater vision and next steps.

Because fear has a tendency to turn our focus inward…

Whether we are willing to acknowledge it or not…fear is prevalent and active in our modern organizations.  And it is not a force to be underestimated…it is a driver.

The problem is that it drives the wrong things…dysfunction, self-preservation, short-sightedness, and status quo.

And it will continue to drive our organizations in the wrong direction…until we determine to drive it out. 

How are you determining to drive fear out of your environments and organizations?


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