As a boss, what is your number one resource for motivation? Do you use money and pay raises to motivate your employees? Do you use incentives and company meals? Or, do you choose to use fear as your number one motivator?

Many employers are turning to fear during the financial crisis to motivate their employees to perform better. While fear may provide some motivation, chances are it alienates the employee, hinders performance, and weakens workplace relationships.

An employer sees examples of fear being used as a motivator on a daily basis. Consider your typical vehicle commercial. The developers depict a car accident in which their vehicle’s side air bags deployed and saved the victims. They are evoking fear of injury or an accident in the viewer and in turn promoting their vehicle and its safety.

Nightly newscasts use fear to get viewers to tune in. For example, a typical headline during your favorite show may warn, “new link found between plastic containers and brain cancer.” Because you use disposable, plastic containers on a daily basis, your fear forces you to tune in.

Perhaps most recognized, the cosmetic industry uses fear to promote their products. For example, a typical television commercial would spend a great deal of time discussing the effects of time on the skin. They highlight wrinkles and sunspots. They then promote their product, and, because the viewers are captivated in fear of their physique’s future, they will run to the nearest retailer.

While we may see many examples of media fear motivating a person, does fear in the workplace achieve positive results? Many of us have experienced this type of bullying boss. They make it a point that each employee knows that they can easily be replaced. Their voice alone sends employees scrambling to look busier. They feel that bullying the employee will force him/her to work harder and perhaps faster.

However, while the fear may motivate the employee to work harder in their presence, how exactly does the employee feel when the boss isn’t around? Working in an unpleasant environment under constant stress and fear may lead the employee to dread and hate their job. They may be unmotivated to accomplish tasks and spend most of their time daydreaming about quitting.

Fearful employees may resist participating in any type of communication with coworkers. They will simply put in their 8 hour shift and head home. While it may be distracting for employees to spend 15 minutes talking about their weekend, conversations among coworkers is important to the success of the business. Discussing the company and job could bring up valuable new ideas that could just benefit your business.

What has the bullying boss accomplished? Yes, the employees “work harder” in your presence. But by creating this negative, pressuring environment, your employees go home every night exhausted and burned out. Chances are they are looking for another job. Although you act as though they are easily replaceable, this is not so. It is expensive and time consuming to train a new employee.

With many businesses struggling, the fear epidemic is on the rise. However, before you consider implanting a “fear” in your employees, look to the future. While it is hard to break the “fear” habit in management, look at the long term effects on not only your employee’s performance and health, but also on your overall business.

Let’s face it. Employees don’t want to worry each and every day that one small mistake could cost them their job. You may be firing seasoned, experienced employees for trifling details and hiring inexperienced, naive new employees. Meanwhile, your competitors are probably jumping to hire your best and most talented workers.

Resist the urge to rule by fear. Instead, be honest and open with your employees about the future job outlook. Explain their responsibilities and what is expected of them. Your employees are well aware of the financial crisis. Constant reminders during the workday will only discourage them and weaken their performance potential.

To know more about how The Idea Smith lean principles and PDCA methodology can help your company improve profitability by reducing lead times, costs and wastes while increasing throughput and customer satisfaction , get in touch .      

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