What is the cost of artificial fear?

What is the cost of artificial fear?

March 14, 2018 by Stella Petrou Concha

Businesses face many risks in the modern environment: lack of customer demand, the health of the global economy, poor financial management – the list goes on. Some are unavoidable but others are more under the business’s control.

One example of such an internal risk is your company having too much ‘artificial fear’. Strong leaders should do their best to minimise this wherever possible.

What is artificial fear?

In his book “Joy, Inc.”, CEO of Menlo Innovations Richard Sheridan gives a couple examples of what artificial fear can look like. It can be something as subtle as a raised executive eyebrow in a meeting where it’s announced that things aren’t going to plan, or something more serious, like bad news stopping at a mid-level executive because the next level up has talked about how failure isn’t an option.


Does your management style create to much fear
Does your management style create too much artificial fear?

It’s the fear, then, of personal consequences when things haven’t gone as well as everyone was expecting. Whether those consequences are real or imagined, they can be a huge motivator in an individual’s decision making when choosing what information to share and what risks they should take.

Why does artificial fear contribute to business risk?

Artificial fear can be so deadly to a business because it clogs the lines of communication that would otherwise allow a company to deal with bad news.

It can also stifle people’s willingness to take risks, because the perceived consequences of failure are too great to bear. What you get as a result is a timid company that doesn’t perform to its potential. Sheridan argues that artificial fear diminishes capacity for creativity and innovation because people’s veins are pumped full of adrenaline and cortisol – hormones the body releases in a fight or flight scenario.

Create an environment where people aren’t afraid to take risks because they won’t be afraid of being punished.

How can you minimise artificial fear?

The solution to the problem of artificial fear is relatively simple; create an environment where people aren’t afraid to take risks because they won’t be afraid of being punished.

This is not to say all consequences for personal actions needs to be abolished. Instead, it should be approached from the position of not wanting to incentivise the withholding of damaging information. In a work environment where mistakes are punished harshly, the fear isn’t artificial – it’s real. Key, therefore, is removing the threat of negative consequences for such actions and making sure everyone understands they have nothing to fear by being honest. 

For information on how Reo can help you in reaching your business goals, get in touch with a member of the team today.

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