Fear is the Wrong Motivator

Let’s talk about Fear, with a capital “F”. It’s a big topic, so I have to ask: Are your employees afraid of you?

I know some of you will state, “Well they should be. I’m the boss!”

I get it. You may even enjoy throwing your weight around. Nobody likes being a pushover, but that’s not what I’m talking about here.

You want people to do their work. If they don’t, you project the fear-producing tone that you will squash them like a bug.

Fear is Toxic

However, that type of fear is toxic. The long-term effects of a culture based on fear aren’t usually good ones.

Skilled and talented people will leave and go somewhere else. Your staff won’t challenge your dumb decisions, because you’ve led them to believe that there are consequences for speaking up.

Fear is a collaboration inhibitor. Who will want to partner up with you when they might be singled out for some sort of tirade? Uh, nobody.

After all, you aren’t a third-world dictator are you?

Fear Stifles Creativity

I don’t know about you, but I think advances in anything are usually comprised of a series of mistakes. When I keep iterating different ideas, eventually I’ll stumble upon one that is fantastic.

That answer would not have presented itself if I had worried about failing. Making adjustments along the way after something doesn’t quite work is what leads to success.

However, if I’m working in a company culture that is fear-based, and where I’m not allowed to explore? Forget about it.

Fear tramples creative freedom. It is the notion of desirable difficulty, where we set hard tasks in front of us to purposely solve, that push us to get ahead of the pack.

How is that going to happen if I’m afraid to try something?

Fear Is the Pathway to Cheating

In a many businesses, the notion of winning at all costs is so rampant that workers start to take shortcuts to get the results that “you have to have.”

How many stories have you heard of the years of workers or executives making inappropriate decisions because they felt the pressure of a quota, goal, or mandate from up above?

What is it like to work in your company? Do you feel pressured to perform, regardless of the consequences? Have you ever taken a shortcut to get the “right answer” and felt miserable about it?

After all, who is it going to hurt?

It hurts everyone.

Here’s How You Know You Have a Fear-Based Culture Company

Stop for a minute and answer these questions:

  • Are there things in your company that you either can’t talk about, or don’t feel comfortable talking about for fear of losing your job?
  • Nobody can speak “truth to power.” Meaning, if a supervisor, manager, or even the owner of the company makes a mistake, nobody better say anything. The last person who voiced an opinion was fired.
  • Everything is about hitting goals, but nothing is put in place to help people achieve them.
  • Communication is one-way and it is top-down. Opinions don’t matter.

What is the Opposite of Fear?

If this article rings true for you, I have good news for you. It doesn’t have to be this way.

The opposite of a fear-based workplace is one that is filled with empathy, purpose, and mentorship.

You should expect to be trained for your job. And jobs a level or two above the one you have now. This includes the manager’s role.

It’s ok to make a mistake if you were honestly trying your best. What did you learn? How could you have handled it better, and what do you need to get there? That’s where growth is usually developed.

Skilled employees should be empowered to do their jobs without micromanaging.

Contact Me

I have good news for you.

Let’s say that you love this industry. You like running an embroidery machine, or screen-printing t-shirts. Maybe you are a wiz at sales or designing for a particular market.

But, the shop that you work for is driving you to quit the industry and find a new role. Fear will do that do you.

If you are looking for an opportunity where your work transcends fear, where your efforts and creativity matter, let me know.

At least twice a week, and often more, shop owners in this industry contact me looking for people like you to work for them.

You don’t have to be afraid. And your work matters.

Let’s find a place that fits you best.


“Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.” – Salvador Dali

“I think fearless is having fears but jumping anyway.” – Taylor Swift

“We fear things in proportion to our ignorance of them.” – Christian Nestell Bovee