THE BLOG
01/12/2015 04:44 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Fear-Based Management Can Set You Free

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You're called into the boss's office. When you get there, a colleague is waiting. It's clear neither of you have any idea what's going on.

Your boss looks at you, the recently-promoted one, and says, "We don't need her anymore, don't you think? We can do without this position. Do you agree?"

The thoughts racing through your mind are lightning speed and emotional:

If I agree, she loses her job, and I keep mine.
If I disagree, she loses her job, and so do I.
I suppose we could get by without her contribution.
What a total asshole he is!
I want to quit right now so I don't have to be a part of this.
I hate him.
I need to keep my job.
I need a new job.
Who would hire me anyway?
Shit.

Sometimes we need to choose between bad and really bad.

Yes, I was the new manager above and I did sell out my friend. She forgave me and laughed about it, but for me it will always be a moment of deep sadness. It is the barometer by which I measure the feasibility of each work situation I enter.

We learn gratitude through adversity. In other words, it can be hard to appreciate a good situation unless we've experienced a bad one. So perhaps I should be grateful for that moment. It led me to identify fear-based management, which led me to compassionate management.

I knew the culture was harsh at that company, but I didn't realize just how toxic it was until that moment. Looking back, I could have called it what it was a thousand times over but I didn't want to face it. I wasn't confident enough to face it.

Identifying fear-based management may sound easy, but it's amazing how we can choose to not see what's going on around, and to, us. That's understandable. Once we name fear-based management, we have to make a difficult decision to deal with it or to move on.

That's the danger of fear-based management. It puts us in the position of choosing between bad and really bad:

  • When you don't name it, it eats away at your spirit, your happiness, and your ease. When you're under constant threat of being fired or in trouble, the tummy can't relax. The brain is always on the lookout. The heart is pumping just a touch too fast.
  • When you do name it, you feel empowered. But now that you're empowered, you need to take action.

Of course I advocate on naming it and taking action. It's forward motion as opposed to stasis and that's almost always the better option. But sometime static is the better option; in this case educated stasis is what I'd advocate for. Knowing full well that you are being managed in a FBM mode will set you free to manage yourself and your team with compassion.

In other words, identifying the fear all around you will enable you to spread compassion even more generously.