Six Dangers of Leading by Fear And Intimidation

A technique implemented by some managers in their workplace is to lead their workers through intimidation and fear. Sadly, it is a leadership tactic that works: a leader who is feared by their staff could discover that they get more out of them, just as a leader who’s is too laid-back with their workers might find that they are not putting 100% effort into what they do.

However, leading by fear can have some major repercussions in the long run. The effects that it can have on a leader’s employees are featured below:

1) It may create stress – Leading by fear may look like it increases productivity in the short run, but if it results in staff becoming more stressed, making more mistakes and rushing their work, becoming burnt out and ultimately having more sick leave then long-term productivity might be hit hard.

2) It can be a creativity killer – Employees who are managed by a boss with an iron rod will not be more creative, even if the leader requires them to be. Taking creative stances and opportunities such as trying new things, innovating and taking risks will be greatly limited, as staff will be concerned that conducting in any of those things will aggravate the guy or girl in charge. Therefore in creative sectors, leading by fear could potentially have enormous repercussions to the development and growth of employees and the company as a whole.

3) Staff won’t want to work with you (by choice) – Workers who are managed by a friendly, approachable leader who looks after them will want to work with them more frequently – it’s as simple as that. Instead of just doing what’s expected, you may discover that they’ll make more of an effort and produce work surpassing all expectations. This may carry across to other departments and teams, who might be more agreeing to carry out favours or get things done quickly for you, even though they shouldn’t. The alternative is that employees won’t do anything beyond what you’ve asked them to do.

4) Your employees will be ‘yes men’ – Just like humas in general, not all managers are perfect and we can all make mistakes. The problem with leading by fear is that if you suggest a strategy or project that people do not agree with, they could be too scared to speak up, disagree or have their say in general. Instead, you might find that employees will agree with anything that you propose, regardless of their opinion on it. This could have a massive damaging effect on long-term strategy – a member of staff should not be punished for recommending against an opinion or recommending another route; in fact they should be applauded for it.

5) Survival will not be about being good, but just looking good – At present, employees might be worried not only about career progression but just generally about surviving, a result of the present economic crisis. Some staff may be able to make themselves look more worthwhile than they actually are, with another person who’s talented but shy looking less important in the process. A great leader will be able to tell their greatest stars from those who simply care about continuing their employment, but for one who leads by fear it might be more difficult or even promote that kind of behaviour between colleagues.

6) It’ll cause talented people to seek other employment – Eventually, the talent will look to go elsewhere. Leadership by fear leads to unmotivated, demoralised and unhappy workers, who will not want to work for you. Even in difficult economic times, with an increasing number of unemployed people and less jobs available, opportunities still appear and people will move on. There may even be instances of struggling to get new hires, if they come across rumours of what it can be like working in the place or if they are able to obtain a glimpse of your management style in an interview.

This doesn’t mean to say that a manager must pander to the wants and needs of their staff – a leader who is soft on their workers is just as bad as a leader who is much too intimidating for their own good. However, a leader should learn to be calm, patient, a great listener and compassionate, while still being strict and not afraid to discipline employees if there are any actual issues. Getting the balance correct can result in a team who are passionate, productive, efficient and happy, something that can be obtained without needing to lead by fear.

Effective leadership and management training does not have to be about leading by fear. There’s lots of ways a leader and his/her workers can grow, through the implementation of other leadership tactics and practices.