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

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


Coming to Consciousness: Personal and Organizational Growth

Each time I thought I suffered most, I came out of the experience knowing more of my self.  More accurately, each incident shook me, pushing me beyond ego. It was the earthquake that shook-off another layer of who I thought I was.

Each incident so hard, so painful at the time, now has become a memory that still fills my eyes with tears. I’m not sure if the tears are for the love of the moment that squeezed my conditioned beliefs until it yielded a diamond of greater consciousness or if I’m experiencing echoes of healing continuing to taking place. Either way, the tears have turned from pain to joy.

I’ve come to shake off the notion of who “I thought” I was through each incident. Organizations and teams; like individuals will go through a similar coming to consciousness or greater understanding of group relationship dynamics, if they are to become a high functioning, high achieving team. 

What began to occur more and more is that, I could “see” the separateness of my conditioning and who I really was. In other words it became increasingly clear that my life existence is just that, an experience that makes an impression on me. However, what I choose to carry with me from my experiences is that which I believe, “I am”.  Specifically, if I continue to carry the burdens and beliefs of the past, I am operating from those burdens and beliefs. Yet, if I let go of the past, I am able to see the present moment through no filter of beliefs but, as it actually is. By removing the filter or lens of past conditioning I am free to make decisions and take actions on what exists not, what I believe to exist which is biased from my experiences. It comes down to better relationships and decision-making; two of the most critical factors in business success today!

When we recognize our lens of past beliefs and conditioned thought we then have an opportunity to evaluate why we believe as we do. Do our beliefs serve us and our connections to others? Or does it separate us and create a divide from others?

All things being the same, had I been born into another family, those experiences would no doubt be different, yet, they too would not be me, but my experiences. Again, it is only when we hold onto these experiences and operate from them that we are relegated to exist at the level of our experiences alone.

I am not a thought as you are not a thought.   Yet, if we are to live beyond thought (conditioned beliefs), how does one reconcile this with modern life?

Meditation first and foremost by the very practice of it, enables one to rise above thought and truly see the interconnectedness of people.

Businesses, non-profits and even sports teams are taking advantage of the benefits of meditation for creative thinking, wellbeing, visioning and execution of highly focused tasks. What these groups have found through meditation is a higher level of cognitive functioning enabling better decision making due to a reduction of emotional influences which limit higher cognitive functioning. In other words, we are able to make decisions based on the collective highest good and not from fear and self-protectionism.

Experience and genetics are what separate us physically.  We have been taught to limit our focus to the material and consequently we miss what’s in front of us. Our common humanity! Our common humanity must be the solid foundation from which organizations build their labor force, in order for the full capability of employees to be realized and experienced daily.

All too often, I see businesses that maintain an external focus, neglecting the people who do the work and support the business. Because many Executives are externally focused on sales and service to customers, they may not realize those they depend on to serve may not be well equipped or properly aligned to provide the best service possible. Therefore, companies begin to lose customers and market share due to poor service or incapable staff.

Let’s look at it this way, as it is consciousness expanding for individuals willing to reflect on beliefs and alignment of actions to achieve goals so, too is it true that teams and organizations benefit through self-reflection and examination.

Providing a safe space for employees and leaders to practice critical thought, challenge the status quo and engage in self reflection is a great start.  Lunch and Learns or facilitated “tough conversations” can begin to provide the environment of practice and dialogue that lead to employees feeling safe to act from their personal authenticity.

The following saying is not just true for sales, but, in organizational engagement and leadership as well, “People don’t care what you have to say, until they know you care”.

Whether you’re interested in maximizing your own individual capabilities or you’re more focused on group achievement; providing permission, support and modeling are critical to make the shift to high performance leaders and teams.

By Ryan McShane

Ryan McShane, has been serving the Human Resources Profession for over 20 years and currently operates a consulting firm specializing in Human Resources Consulting, Leadership Development and Career Transition Services.

Prior, to that Ryan worked in the public, private, start-up and not-for-profit sectors, learning the various cultural norms, principles and practices of each sector and applying that learning to create High Performance Leaders and Organizations. Ryan is also the immediate past president for the largest Local SHRM Chapter in the state of Maryland, Chesapeake Human Resource Association (CHRA).

Ryan’s professional affiliations include serving on the Board of Chesapeake Human Resource Association (CHRA), Board member and Membership Director of Hunt Valley Business Forum, a founding member of Conscious Capitalism- Central Maryland, a Member of York, PA’s local SHRM chapter, a Member of UMBC’s Instructional Systems Development (ISD) Advisory Board, and a former Member of the Boomer Council, an advisory council focusing on civic engagement and mature workforce strategies.

Ryan is passionate about creating and leveraging practices and systems to enable both, individuals and organizations to achieve their highest potential. By promoting greater self-awareness and a conscious approach to workforce management, Ryan seeks to enable a stakeholder orientation, giving rise to equal consideration of People, Planet and Profit.

Cooperation or Competition, which leads to greater abundance?

cooperationWe are but parts of the whole. Each part informs the whole and the whole informs each part. This is true for a family, a team, an organization, community or society. We recognize cooperation is what best serves each of these units individually and collectively; from a single person to the largest of groups. So, why does competition dominate our minds and institutions?
Our corporate and political cultures are reflective of the Darwinian notion of competition, “kill or be killed”. We can see the result is an ever-expanding economic divide between the “haves and have nots”. This divide, in a sense has created a polarity. The opportunistic “haves” seize upon the polarity notion and posit, there are only two options and it must either be “this” or “that”. (You can see this reflected in today’s politics and our two party system.) These arguments are perfectly positioned by the “haves” to seem like there are only two choices and no matter how fancy they are framed, they all end in “I win, you lose”. We see examples of this by leaders and decision-makers where the deck is stacked in the favor of the decision-maker, by the decision-maker, which leads to distrust for positions of leadership and authority.
A novice observer could easily see we (individuals, families, teams, organizations, communities, etc.) cannot come together in unison and have the full power and benefit of our collective expertise, if our institutions and organizations model and reinforce internal competition. We are obviously then divided against each other, instead of united around our common challenges. Even worse, despite all the energy and resources being used most of it is wasted as we work against each other.
So, what does this have to do with corporate culture and leadership?
Remember, I said in the beginning the parts inform the whole and the whole informs the parts? We do not live in bubbles and the more businesses openly reflect the personalities, cultures and societal norms of its people the more the organization fosters cooperation over competition. Not only is a cooperative approach to work more profitable, healthy and sustainable but, the next largest talent pool available to the labor force, called the Millennial Generation is also keenly aware of how large institutions have impacted individuals, families, and the larger community through reported mass lay-offs, buy-outs and shutdowns. Millennials saw this happening to their parents or their friends’ parents and heard it discussed on the news, as well as, social media and throughout their communities and schools too. Needless to say, anything that causes a shaking to one’s sense of security is going to be remembered for a long time.
Therefore, the Millennials are responsively focused on supporting organizations that are mission and purpose driven, not simply money driven.
Despite years of conditioning and examples to the contrary, I’ve seen a few shining examples of the wisest of executives and leaders who have recognized and tapped into the abundance of cooperation, throwing off the constraints of competition.
In fact, a ten year, longitudinal study compared organizations who operated consistently with the tenants of Conscious Capitalism (Higher Purpose, Stakeholder Orientation, Conscious Leadership and Conscious Culture – a highly cooperative approach to workplace management) against the earnings of the S&P, revealing the organizations who operated from a conscious capitalism approach exceeded the S&P earnings by 1,025%. (That’s not a decimal point, it’s a comma – one thousand and twenty-five percent!)
How do we make the shift to cooperation when all we’ve known is competition?
The Conscious Leader
The aware, awake (conscious) leader is not threatened by cooperation but, recognizes the greater value of a workforce representative of their local community of consumers and stakeholders. That by serving the greater needs of the community through providing good jobs, good pay, safe working conditions, opportunities for growth and a chance to serve something greater than the individual themselves, the organization is best positioned to achieve long term success. To make the shift the leadership approach must be one of being a servant leader; enabling the greatest capabilities of our followers through support of education and resources, aligned with organizational purpose.

Walk the Talk
We hear executives and leaders from all levels of organizations state their desire for cooperation amongst employees, only to implement competitive bonus programs, play favorites, and operate from a win at all cost mentality, which can compromise employee health by a culture tolerating abusive and toxic behavior. Whether the executives recognize the incoherence of the stated vision and the actual environment is another matter. Examine policies, procedures and norms considering whether they are a barrier or conduit to the corporate mission.

Walk the Walk
It’s important to know the “temperature” of your greatest and most expensive assets. Get out there and be a leader known, recognized and loved for who you are and not feared because of your role. Conduct regular engagement surveys and other mechanisms for feedback and measure growth milestones to make sure operational priorities are well balanced with your people priorities. Investing in your people creates loyalty and foundational strength, not to mention a greater capability to serve customers. To put the operations ahead of your people will result in sub-par employees and regular turnover, impacting client services, as well as increasing headaches and costs!

Think Long Term
I’d like to believe that leaders would recognize the long term societal cost of squeezing employees with high demands and diminishing returns is not worth the short term gains to the business or executives. Yet… I’d be naïve to think there aren’t those bad actors that actually do put profit before people.
Yes, we have some work to do as a society in the areas of honoring long term commitment and sustained growth. Currently, the business norms honor and recognize immediate, short-term results! You know the feeling, living quarter-to-quarter and thinking “I gotta make the numbers”. It is these extreme demands to make the numbers or potentially face loss of employment that coerces an epidemic of short term thinking.
Please know, the decisions we make to support short terms gains are almost never the same as those we would choose for long term gains or successes. Why? Because the short game is predicated on the return, with no regard for the resources. However, a long term plan must consider the availability and sustainability of resources (natural and human). Without these (natural and human) resources neither products, nor services can be expanded to generate more revenue and profits.
Yet, almost paradoxically to the short term thinking, the long term interests of both business and responsible stewardship of resources are not mutually exclusive but, in fact complimentary to one another.
Unfortunately, we have seen extreme examples were short term interests where chosen, using the company and employees to serve selfish means. Names like Enron, Bernie Madoff and Volkswagon come to mind as top level executives who acted in their own best interest, ultimately harming individuals, families, businesses and communities as a result.
It’s evident many individuals and institutions still operate from a competition-perspective of I win, you lose. However, with an ever-increasing skepticism for authority, demand for greater transparency and a growing economic divide the cooperative-perspective may finally over-take the competition-perspective yet, for mutual short and long term gains.
A simple shift in perspective and a stepping out of our conditioned thinking around competition, demonstrates an elevated consciousness. We are no longer trapped by the limits of competitive thinking and the results in produces. Given our new cooperative perspective, we can now consider the sum of all parts and the impact of each on the whole. In other words, when we take the whole into consideration, we are now conscious of the impact of our decisions on our people, families, community and society at large and can make sure our decisions are of benefit to our people, as well as, our bottom line.
By Ryan McShane
Ryan, has been serving the Human Resources Profession for over 20 years and currently operates a consulting firm specializing in small business Human Resources Advisory Services, Leadership Development, Career Transitions Consulting and Outplacement.
Ryan is passionate about creating and leveraging conscious business practices and systems to enable both, individuals and organizations to achieve their highest potential. By promoting greater self-awareness and a conscious approach to workforce management, Ryan seeks to enable a stakeholder orientation, giving rise to equal consideration of People, Planet and Profit.

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