Having listened to an incredible episode of Dr. Rangan Chatterjee’s podcast, “How to Win at Life Without Losing Yourself With Dr Pippa Grange” where they explain how fear holds us back in our lives, we couldn’t help but think about how fear holds us back in the workplace.
Why is this a business relevant topic? Because fear dispels creativity and curiosity and leads to self-doubt and uncertainty – hindering our ability to perform in a productive, successful, and happy manner. And there are tons of research to back this.
Dr. Pippa Grange, Doctor of Applied Psychology, and author of the book Fear Less: How to Win at Life Without Losing Yourself, explains that fear is a natural emotion, but one that we need an awareness around to make sure that we are keeping it at the right size. We cannot allow it to take up too much space as it ultimately alters our course of action, our ability to have mental freedom, and be creative in our thinking. And at work, we need to be functioning optimally and feel empowered to act without the inhibitions of fear and its gang of possies – judgement, jealousy, fear of rejection, superiority, perfectionism, and thoughts that our contributions and ideas are not good enough.
A research study on team performance undertaken by Google discovered that a defining factor in certain teams outperforming others rested solely in an authentic workplace with psychological safety. Psychological safety is a group culture that the Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmondson defines as a ‘‘shared belief held by members of a team that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking. A sense of confidence that the team will not embarrass, reject or punish someone for speaking up,’’ Edmondson explains. ‘‘It describes a team climate characterized by interpersonal trust and mutual respect in which people are comfortable being themselves.’’ If this is a topic that you are intrigued by, you can listen to Amy’s TEDx Talk on Building a Psychologically Safe Workplace.
To share ideas, feedback, offer solutions, brainstorm new approaches and put your hand up to speak out requires vulnerability. However, vulnerability has often been perceived as the last thing to be at work – a weakness – to hide at all costs – but perhaps it is this very thing that has been holding companies back to really achieving their full potential. One cannot foster a shaming and blaming environment where criticism and judgement are feared and expect high performance and wellbeing in return. A company is defined by its people. They are the life, the spirit, the heartbeat of what make your organization, and if we don’t empower them to bring their whole selves to work it will generally have a long-term negative effect on their performance, health and happiness.
As HR, you need to be fiercely determined to cultivate an environment that allows your employees to be all they are whilst feeling safe and supported. Especially in today’s rapidly changing and unpredictable environment, where HR professionals continue to face the demand of altering approaches and expanding mindsets to match the constantly changing demand on skills. People expect fear is increasing where the constant lure of job loss/being made redundant is a biggy. Would you show yourself if you feel you might be next?
The nice thing is when you are in this dynamic environment you are in a position where you can shape that environment and move the needle, step by step.
As HR, you are the heart of finding the potential in people and processes and help drive organizational performance through human beings. Let’s not lose another second of inauthentic non–human interaction at work.
 Pot, Frank/ Dhondt, Steven/ Oeij, Peter (2012): Social innovation of work and employment. In: Franz, Hans-Werner/ Hochgerner, Josef/ Howaldt, Jürgen (Eds.), Challenge Social Innovation. Potential for business, social entrepreneurship, welfare and civil society. Springer: Berlin, pp. 261 – 274.
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