Welcome to Part Three of my four-part series: Fear Dynamics 101. In Part One, “Defining Fear Dynamics,” I introduced the concept. In Part Two, “Recognizing the Warning Signs,” I illustrated several common symptoms of fear that arise in group settings, so you know what to look for. In this part, I discuss the consequences of allowing fear to govern business behaviors, relationships, and interactions.
I would not be discussing the problems associated with fear dynamics (the behavior and communication patterns that emerge during interpersonal interactions involving fear) if there were no costs that people and organizations suffer. Unfortunately, the potential costs of fear dynamics are quite substantial.
When fear operates unchecked or acknowledged, people often respond in the following ways:
Welcome to Part Two of my four-part series: Fear Dynamics 101. In Part One, “Defining Fear Dynamics,” I introduced the concept and presented an example to illustrate how fear dynamics threatened to derail an acquisition I was working on for a client with the help of an accounting group. In this part, I describe common fear dynamics warning signs, so you know what to look for.
(Photo by Fineas Anton on Unsplash)
Perhaps what is most sinister about fear dynamics (the behavior and communication patterns that emerge during interpersonal interactions involving fear) is that they arise from causes unseen. Like a tsunami that swells from shifting land masses miles below sea level, fear dynamics wash over everyone involved, often without them ever sensing the cause.
Note: Although I recommend ultimately working toward eliminating fear dynamics through proactive processes, learning how to mitigate or manage existing fear dynamics can be equally beneficial and is often a necessary first step — a step that requires the ability to recognize when a fear dynamic is at work.
One of the first steps in managing fear dynamics is to learn to “smell fear” when it is influencing the behavior of one or more parties in a group. (The “group” may be an internal group, a client service group of several companies, or a group working on a transaction in an adversarial setting.) Here are a few of the most common warning signs that fear is influencing a person’s behavior or a group dynamic:
Fear is an unpleasant feeling that tells us when someone or something is potentially dangerous — that it threatens our being or well-being or is likely to cause pain of some sort. It serves the useful purpose of keeping us out of trouble; it can motivate us to take much-needed action — fight, flight, or freeze. And it is useful in various aspects of our lives, warning us of threats not only in the physical world, but also in our personal or business relationships, our careers, our finances, or even our freedom.
However, if it is unwarranted or excessive, fear can warp perception, stifle innovation, erode confidence, undermine trust, and trigger conflict. Left unchecked or misunderstood, it can paralyze an individual or an entire organization and lead people to make poor decisions with potentially catastrophic consequences. Yet, fear in the business environment is rarely addressed in any formal way. In fact, most do not even recognize the warning signs. As a result, many suffer the consequences —
Small or massive, change is as draining as it is invigorating. I have been reflecting on this dichotomy recently as I navigated the change in where I “hang my shingle,” as they say in the legal world. The transition has subjected me to alternating waves of great hope and mind-numbing laboriousness, often in rapid succession.
During this life-changing event, I tried to take a step back and reflect on what change must be like for my clients and connections. I spend my days facilitating change in companies and for individuals. Whether it is the hiring or firing of an employee or the purchase or sale of a ten-store dealership group, the constant is change. I often am involved in significant change with my clients where the future goals are large or the failure risk is high. These sorts of situations consume energy at high levels for all the players involved. I had understood this at one level before I made my change, but have come to a new appreciation of what is really involved in these situations.
I have also come to realize that the type of energy in change situations is different than that needed to maintain a routine or pattern. This makes intuitive sense, as the energy needed to evaluate new and changing facts and circumstances differs from that needed to