Recent "fear" column strikes a nerve

Wow! The letters and comments are pouring in. My column a few weeks ago, about fear as a "motivator" has struck a nerve. Sad to say, there are more lousy managers out there than anyone would like to believe. In the column, I listed 12 ways to "motivate" by fear; everything from yelling at employees in front of customers to threatening them with losing their jobs. It was a sarcastic description of some of the worst things a boss could possibly do. Here's a sampling from the letters you sent in:

"I really enjoyed your article, [about fear]. I'm glad to know of a specific person who shares my humanistic and philosophical view of human resources...I treat employees with utmost respect...I really believe that a happy worker is a productive worker. If a company shows concern for job satisfaction and personal growth in the workplace, respects employees, appreciates, rewards, and values employees, the employees in turn will be better workers."

"How did you know exactly how my employer operates? The column you wrote fits this creepy excuse of a boss perfectly!"

"You got a standing ovation in the plant today for your column. We have been ruled by fear for years and we're glad you told it like it is: managing with fear is outdated, cruel and counterproductive."

"We read your column out loud in the office today (of course management wasn't around at the time!). You hit it right on the head. Until management starts treating us with respect and dignity they will never understand why we don't give 150 percent- and turnover here is 40 percent!"

"Your column in today's paper on instilling fear in employees, I'm sure, had to be "tongue-in-cheek." Unfortunately, it's not clear whether you support these awful tactics or not. I suspect that you're smarter than that. But I fear some misguided persons might take such tactics seriously. I really think a clarification is necessary. That one paragraph at the end isn't enough to show that you may be advocating honesty and trust in the workplace."

This reader's hunch was right, because I received the following letter:

"Do you think your parents and children would be proud of your newspaper article [about fear]? I think your ways of managing people aren't very Christian. If you feel you can treat people like this and get ahead in life I feel very sorry for you!"

Let me set the record straight: that column was indeed a sarcastic, "tongue-in-cheek" attack on managers who actually believe that intimidating and humiliating employees is their right and privilege.

Any employee will tell you that when they are involved in decision making, praised for their contribution, trusted to do what's right, coached when they need it and kept informed about company goals will give their very best.

Employees today are better educated and more informed than any in history. They simply won't tolerate poor treatment they will respond with poor performance and a negative attitude. If a business is going to survive, destructive managers must be removed or reassigned to a job for which they are more qualified. It seems like common sense but unfortunately, good sense apparently isn't all that common.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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