Fear and Love in the Workplace; A Nation’s Concern?

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Despite what you may think, Fear and Love in the Workplace is not the name of a new daytime drama. However, it certainly sounds like it could be, don’t you think? I can only begin to imagine how juicy it would be with secret office romances, power plays and backstabbing as daily occurrences.  Unfortunately, these day time dramas play out every day and not on a TV screen, but in real corporate offices, with real people. The effect can shape more lives than we might think.

Some may call it our “foot print” or “mark” that transcends us as individuals and influences generations. What we must ask ourselves, however, is ours a mark of love or fear?

To begin to see the impact of love and fear in the workplace, we can look to nature as our guide and example. In fact, the fractal nature of existence is a perfect model and analogy that can be applied to a business by noting that, as an individual improves so do teams, departments, divisions and entire organizations.  An organization’s influence is inevitable on employee’s behaviors. The question is whether that’s a good thing?

The type of organization that makes a positive difference economically and in community members’ lives, recognizes the interdependent nature of how each aspect of our lives (personal, social, professional, spiritual, community, environmental, etc.) effect one another.  Further, these organizations support employees with whole person health benefits in mind, generous leave, telecommuting, community volunteering, casual work environments and even on-site meditation areas and “chill” zones, created to promote employee social interaction.

When we stand back and look to see the “fractal effect” of organizations who recognize and support the whole person, we realize the significance of investing in our economic futures that, by developing the leaders we need in business we also develop the leaders we need in our communities. Investing in our future business leaders, creates a ripple that rises all tides, (personal, social, professional, spiritual, community, environmental, etc.) to quality living and abundance for those who desire and work for it.  THIS is precisely how business can be a conduit for social evolution

The workforce implications for choosing love over fear:  As individuals we are innately limited in our capabilities.  When we add new individuals with new skill sets the team expands its collective capabilities and is able to produce more than they could separately and individually, a dynamic called synergy.  As we make decisions based on love, rather than fear we begin to grow and are accepting of all manner of people, places and things.  We cannot separate the person doing the work from who they are.  And we are certainly much more than the roles we perform!  By being open and accepting of our coworkers and their differences we have an opportunity to expand our relationship capabilities, networks, learning and consequently our business opportunities. Fear limits all the aforementioned benefits and seeks status-quo and control.

The societal implications for choosing love over fear: Love accepts differences, while fear ridicules and isolates differences. A diverse society, supported by love and guidance yields diverse talents and a larger, more diverse pool of capabilities to be leveraged for society’s benefit.  It is cooperation that expands capabilities, while competition limits them.  A society that chooses love over fear recognizes the exponential synergy of leveraging small and large groups of people with diverse skill sets around a shared purpose. In fact, it’s how many of our current beliefs and cultural norms came to be today. While we haven’t yet reach the point of majority for organization’s (or our nation for that matter), operating from love over fear, however, one can see a growing demand for greater work/life balance, more consideration for our environment, compassion for others and a growing need to incorporate more meaning and purpose in our work and daily lives.

For the companies not sure yet, about the financial benefit of love over fear, think about this conversation once overheard between a CFO and CEO.  CFO asks, “What if we train them and they leave?” CEO responds, “What if we don’t and they stay?”

The CFO is operating from fear, of not having enough.  The CEO is operating from love and the sense that what’s best for employees’ growth, aligned with goals and purpose can only produce greater capabilities and consequently greater outcomes. Certainly things are not this black and white in real world circumstances. Yet, what matters is the intention of providing employees continuous learning and the tools to successfully perform their assigned roles and goals. Our intentions of support will lead us to develop creative alternatives rather, than simply see employee growth as an extra cost factor.

Fear-based leadership and cultures are the recipe for mediocrity, the workforce is literally conditioned to do just enough to not get fired or in trouble.   Fear-based leaders typically suppress talent and competition from the ranks and surround themselves with “yes” people who insulate them from dissent and reality and for their reward receive a different standard of treatment.  The culture becomes one of apathy as employees recognize they can do little to change the inequities and disparity of treatment.

One the other hand, a “love-based” leader understands his/her role is not to create followers but more leaders. Servant leaders are the original love-based leaders. They are selfless, they do not make us fear for our jobs or protect knowledge and information as a tool to create leverage over others.  Servant leadership operates from the stand point of enabling the greatest capabilities of his/her followers!

A supportive environment, where decisions are made based on love (support/guidance) and not fear (intimidation/internal competition/command and control leadership) is conducive to growth, right?!

So, if you want to grow as a person, a team, a family, an organization or a community it has to begin from a foundation of love. It is the environment in which all things grow!  Now, before you think I went all “Flower Power” on you, let’s boil it down to the simple fact that, we can only make decisions one of two ways, from fear or love. 

Love, support and guidance, are the few characteristics rarely discussed in organizations lead by fear and intimidation.  Currently, conservative estimates indicate over 60% of organizations are run through autocratic or authoritarian leadership norms.  When more than half of organizations in our country are run on fear-based norms and the high stress that accompanies these environments it’s time to pay attention to deleterious effect of fear on individuals, families, teams, up to and including our entire nation. Fear-based organizations commonly control information, lack compassion for employee work-life balance and support a culture of competitiveness amongst staff, all contributing to stress.

When we consider stress is the number one cause for health related issues and absenteeism from work, costing organizations billions each year, it no longer sounds like a “hippy notion” to incorporate the fear vs. love test when engaging in decision-making, leadership and organizational culture.

So, you may be asking yourself, how do I make sure I am a “love-based” leader, employee or entrepreneur?

Be the Leader You Seek. Begin with yourself, share what you’ve learned with others and begin creating your own ripple of love, support and guidance.  Every once in a while, we can all take a pause for the cause and ask ourselves:

“How do I feel when I make decisions from love over fear?”

“Are my motivations and outlook on certain topics fear-based (corrosive and detrimental to growth) or love-based (a positive environment for growth)?”

“Where in my life have I made decisions from fear?  What’s happening in that area?  What can change/improve?”

“Where have I made decisions from love?

“Who currently needs support and how can I provide that?”

Lastly, to further support your recognition leadership modalities, to serve as a model for others, and personally make the shift to ever increasing love-based decision-making, here are two lists of leader behaviors.

Fear-based leadership behaviors

  1. Communication is one way
  2. Lacking clear guidance of roles and behaviors
  3. Selective hearing- only good news
  4. Distrust amongst leadership
  5. Recognition, promotions etc. do not consider behaviors only numbers.

Love based leadership behaviors

  1. Puts others first
  2. Clearly and often articulates a compelling vision
  3. Recognizes behaviors that support the norms of the company, not just results
  4. Equips followers with the tools necessary to do their jobs
  5. Views work and life as a continuous learning process

With this foundation you can begin examining your own motivations, as well as those imbedded in larger systems (again, groups are a reflection of the individuals such as family, teams, business systems, communities, etc.).

Choosing love-based decision-making, support and guidance as a daily mode of being when we’ve been taught otherwise by the autocratic leaders of our ancestors for several generations is not an easy shift to make yet, there are a billion reasons why it benefits everyone to make the effort!


By Ryan McShane


Ryan is a HR Consultant, specializing in Leadership Development and Career Guidance. To connect with Ryan and learn more about the tools and services designed to guide individuals and organization to evolve to their highest potential, email [email protected] or visit the website at www.marc3solutions.com




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