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What Kind of Workplace Culture Have You Cultivated?

Ever heard of a fear based workplace culture? As a leader, you have probably been on both sides of the fence. You know what it's like to walk on eggshells at work, and go home feeling disheartened and uneasy every evening.

You also know what it's like to see subordinates feel on-edge, uncomfortable and uptight around you or other supervisors. They're scared to make mistakes and sometimes the tension in the office so thick you might even feel like you could cut it with a butter knife.

One example of a workplace culture based on this was General Electric's CEO Jack Welch's rank and yank methodology. The performance model was a bellcurve, and the worst performers of every review would get fired and replaced. His leadership style was one that embodied efficiency and operational excellence, with the company's value increasing by over $300 billion during his reign. However, it was also a leadership style that fostered a culture of fear in the workplace, as he fired so many people he was given the nickname 'Neutron Jack'. It caused members of the organization to feel undervalued, unwilling to collaborate, and go to work with a lingering fear of being replaced every day.

In the aforementioned fear saturated culture, you won't get collaboration or innovation. In an office filled with people aiming to simply meet requirements to avoid getting fired instead of having the bandwidth to do more, the organization's growth can never be accelerated.

"People don't leave jobs, they leave toxic work cultures."

As Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappo, posits: If you get the culture right, most of the other stuff will just take care of itself. So how do you get the culture right? The idea is to inject a fear saturated culture with a sense of trust. Demonstrate that you trust that your team members can manage their own schedules, deadlines and workload to best deliver results. Show them that you don't feel the need to micromanage them, and that your default expectation of your team is excellence. Make them understand you are not a leader who underestimates your team and that you trust them to do their best.

Most people genuinely want to succeed. Who wants to go to work everyday for 9 hours a day, 5 days a week just to feel incompetent? By hearing that you believe in them, people will begin to believe they can accomplish what you give them to do. Of course, you still have to appraise them carefully, provide feedback and equip them with the necessary skills to do well. However, the power of having someone genuinely believing in your ability to succeed is something that should not be underestimated.

The takeaway from this article is that as a leader, when you bring out the best in others, you can empower them to become individuals who demonstrate excellence. A culture of trust always works better than a culture of fear.

"If you are lucky enough to be someone's employer, then you have a moral obligation to make sure people do look forward to coming to work in the morning."


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