‘Fasten your seatbelts. We are about to enter the tunnel of fear.’ Perhaps not the usual opening line to a text book aimed at business readers, but then again, this is not your usual business book. Jerico has delved into one of the trickiest of subjects to discuss, let alone to attempt to explain and suggest remedies to address within any working environment – Fear.
As Jericho states, the approach to employee ‘motivation’ has traditionally been through use of fear (defined as anxiety, stress, fright, phobia and panic) – e.g. not meeting a deadline, lack of bonus, the chance of losing one’s job, demotion, lack of promotion or loss of status. The author also talks about the less obvious fear, e.g. a manager’s aversion to engagement in case of loss of face, loss of power because knowledge is power, and the detrimental impact on the team through anxiety of the unknown and ensuing rumours. This use of fear as a motivator generally works, and companies make profits. However, is this approach correct all the time, or even any of the time? Is there an alternative which assists companies to become more productive, successful and more profitable? Yes, is Jericho’s view, and I tend to agree.
The book begins by exploring the development of fear, and how it is part of our culture, our inbuilt makeup and a basic emotion, and how this can affect/impede our ability to work effectively. Jericho discusses fear and motivation, the types of fear we experience (of not surviving, of rejection, of failure, of loss of power, and of change), the experience and impact of these. There is a price of fear-based management for employees and companies, where use of fear kills off talent, long term vision and innovation, and degrades quality of life and happiness. An alternative is to capitalise on talent, change and innovation.
The book finishes off by challenging organisations and employees to move to a ‘no fear’ management style. This includes recognising that increased returns can be realised, that a balanced approach to key stakeholders can be achieved, especially with management and employees. It also recognises that a hierarchy is required, but ensures that this is participative and oriented towards the company goal, and not those of an individual. One of the key messages is that communication is vital. We all know this, but it is one of the first things to disappear… if everyone is clear and aware of what is required, then the large fear of uncertainty is reduced. If fears can be defined, then the fear is likely to go away, and as such it is important for managers to recognise employee’s fears and to reduce these by communication, clarity and openness.
Overall, I found this book to be of more interest then I first thought. I still have niggles about the format of the book, being too broken up and with too many quotations for my personal liking. I occasionally found the train of thought in the text a little obscure, but this was countered through useful end of chapter summaries.
The use of fear as a management technique is not always obvious or even that this technique is being employed. However, it is engrained in our psyche. As the book outlines, let’s challenge ourselves to move away from management by fear, and instead manage on the basis of talent, change and innovation.
By Pilar Jerico
Published by Palgrave Macmillan, 2009
This book review was originally published in Project, Association for Project Management, March 2010, Issue 226, p32.