“On the surface, the symptoms of fear management are the insecurity of employees, as can be understood. On closer inspection, the symptoms are often categorical, that is, those who are in grace and those who are not. Suspicion and dishonesty are rampant and people are beginning to try to say and do what they think the management wants, “says Bjarni Snaebjorn Jonsson when asked what the symptoms of fear management are, but in recent months the public has become aware of this concept in the news. Disputes can be mentioned at the police station in Sudurnes, in the SAA presidential election this summer, or when the controversy was at its height at the office of the National Commissioner of Police this year.
But what is fear management and what are its main consequences?
“The result is that a lot of energy goes into a variety of internal nervous tensions, which are caused by surveillance, accusations, decision-phobia, and talking under four eyes to name a few,” says Bjarni.
In Atvinnulíf yesterday and today, different management methods are discussed. In this third and final article in a series of articles, Bjarni Snaebjorn Jonsson, a consultant on fear management, is interviewed.
Bjarni completed his doctoral studies in management in 2014. His main subject was the development and transformation of companies and communities. Bjarni has over 25 years of experience in consulting with an emphasis on strategy and management. He is also one of the founders of the software company DecideAct.
According to Bjarni, a lot of energy is wasted when fear management is in place in the workplace.
“There, energy is wasted in a variety of internal friction and nerve-wracking misery, which means that the system, whether it is a company, institution, team or other human organization, delivers results far below capacity.
Just as energy loss has been measured in mechanical systems according to the theories of physics, it is possible to approach this and measure in human systems such as companies, by looking at the prevailing values in corporate culture “, says Bjarni.
Bjarni says that the public sector can better hide the consequences of fear management, but when the situation is really bad, workplaces and even entire communities can get into a serious plague where they even explode and go head to head.
In fact, the consequences do not necessarily have to do with public activities, as they are often kept alive regardless of the results, which is often difficult to measure, and therefore a situation of this kind can persist for a longer period of time. ”
says Bjarni and adds “The consequences are often noticeable in the mental state of the employees, which often ends in general discomfort, burnout, and long-term illness.
The problem does not necessarily lie with the management
Bjarni says that there is a certain misunderstanding in the fact that the problem of fear management always lies with the management. That is not always the case.
How can threat management be eradicated when the problem lies with the managers themselves and not the employees?
“In order to approach the answer to this question, one must consider the reasons why fear management will prevail.
The problem does not necessarily lie with the managers themselves.
There are not many, if any, managers who consciously conduct their work in such a way as to undermine the activities entrusted to them. I state that the intention of most, if not all managers, is the opposite, and they are all willing to do a good job and be well received by employees.
Of course, it can be in the personality and temperament of managers how they fare in this regard. They are simply not capable of controlling or creating a constructive atmosphere in collaboration with others. There can be many reasons for that, but in any case, there is no other way in such cases than to replace the person in question, “says Bjarni.
Bjarni also says that this point is often pointed out in connection with mistakes in hiring managers, where it is left to the head to examine their personality or temperament. He says such mistakes can be costly and fatal.
“Especially since it is more common for those responsible for the hiring not to address the problem in a timely manner, but to let the manager’s incompetence persist for far too long even until the manager resigns himself, which is usually not until all is said and done,” says Bjarni.
The two most common causes of fear management
Bjarni says that the root of the problem most often lies in one of the following two causes:
First of all, it has long been an adherent role of management, that people think that anyone can do it without having the training or experience to do so. Managers are therefore put in a difficult role, often on the basis of some specific professional knowledge, but without any support or assistance in getting to grips with the complex and complex role that management really is. As a result, they become insecure but at the same time find it difficult to seek help, which is often considered a sign of weakness. Of course, they try to make a difference, but in reality, they transfer their own insecurity to their colleagues and a situation that can be called fear management develops.
Second, culture and mentality are simply imbued with fear; suffer from a kind of mental illness that could, for example, have been caused by long-term chaos in the culture and restrictive behavior and conduct of managers. It is therefore a common mentality and emphasis that causes a situation that creates a great deal of internal friction with everything I mentioned earlier about the symptoms of fear management. If a manager is replaced in such a situation, a new manager has a very difficult time unless he or she is particularly sensitive to other people and has a great deal of emotional intelligence. Everything that is said or done, especially and especially the nature of change, employees experience as a great threat. Everything is interpreted and changed for the worse and the manager is very quickly branded as a kind of tyrant. The fish story flies fast and many misinterpreted intentions take flight and each new version gets worse than the previous one. The fear intensifies and if the manager does not realize the situation and the underlying causes, it is quite certain that employees will experience situations that can be classified as fear management.
But what can be done to eradicate this situation?
”Unfortunately, in my opinion, the answer is the same in all cases: If the damage is done, then there is little that can be done but to clean up the management team.”
On the other hand, at the same time, a thorough examination of the prevailing mindset must be carried out and the root of the problem must be addressed so that those who follow do not end up in exactly the same situation, “says Bjarni.
He himself has gone through situations and projects where such measures need to be taken. In those projects, it is sometimes revealed that the source of fear management is not in those who are accused of such management but in other managers who are fearful and insecure and spread with negative behavior and reactions.
“Reducing the situation requires that conditions are viewed from all angles and inevitable changes, which more often than not can be painful, do not have to be made more than once.”
Finally, Bjarni says that it is difficult to answer the question of whether fear management is more common than many suspects because it is difficult to assess what the criterion in that question really is.
“I would like to say, however, that these situations are too common and too little is made of the responsibility that managers have towards the well-being of their employees.
”It is also far too common in my opinion that those who are considered the superiors of the managers in question are also guilty of not being diligent in hiring and preparing and training managers and more often than not show in action when dealing with difficult situations that arise from it.”
It is often said that you are often hired for what you know but fired for what you are, “says Bjarni.
He says, however, that based on the data he has, the level of chaos in the culture of Icelandic companies has not reached the point of being considered above the danger level. Thus, the results of a survey he conducted a few years ago showed that the measured level of chaos in corporate culture was 17% and had then been declining from previous surveys. The danger limit is considered to be 20%. Bjarni says this is only an average, which means that the distribution is both above and below this average.
“Therefore, I believe that situations that are characterized by underlying fear and restrictive thinking of managers and at the same time employees are too common and this can be a great opportunity to increase productivity and performance of companies and institutions in general,” says Bjarni.