Fear in the workplace

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2009 is coming to a close.  I don’t think many people will be sorry to see it go.  As we all know and experienced, it was a rough year.  We saw venerable companies go under or go into bankruptcy.  The stock markets tanked and the economy followed.  Almost everyone felt personal impacts such as layoffs, cut wages and hours, foreclosures and bankruptcies.  

Smart Brief on Workforce asked several bloggers to summarize 2009 in terms of workplace issues.  The posts that resonated the most with me talked about fear.  People who have lost their jobs face serious hardships and intense stress.  It is a hard time to be out of work.  Those of us who kept are jobs are grateful for the paycheck – we are definately in better shape than those who were layed off.  Even so, a paycheck does not mean that we are not impacted by fear.  Fear also affects people who are still working (you can sometimes throw survivor guilt in there too). 

HR Bartender wrote about some examples that captured the impact of fear on the workplace – even spilling over into workplace violence.  Fear and frustration and anger can build so intensely that it comes out in violence.  Eileen Habelow, a guest poster at Dan McCarthy’s Great Leadership Blog, talked about fear creating a survival mentality.  Those who have a job feel fortunate but also threatened.  That results in defensiveness, lower productivity, less focus and lower satisfaction.

The end of the year is always good for reflection.  I encourage you to think about two topics:

1.  How has fear impacted you at work?  Have you changed your behavior?  How do you want to do in 2010?

2.  If you are a leader/ manager or strive to be one, consider how fear has impacted people around you.  What can you do to make your workplace a more secure andless fearful place?

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