Weapons to Combat the Fear Factor

By: John Skelton, Senior Editor

Fear takes a terrible toll in the workplace.

It has always been with us, but enlightened managers have discovered ways to alleviate the Fear Factor among employees. Unlike in past centuries, employees no longer need to feel as if they are alone to battle their demons. Legislation exists in all developed countries to protect the workforce from unfair and unethical supervision. Here is but a short summary of seven straightforward weapons that management can establish and point toward even before fear reaches a crisis point:

Value Statement: Publish a Statement of Values as an integral part of the firm’s Strategic Plan. This provides moral clarity to the firm’s management team. The Value Statement holds managers to account when toxic practices creep into the business’ landscape. Employee awareness is critical.

New Hires: Due diligence with respect to potential new employees should include an assessment of the person’s ability to exemplify company values. Orientation should clearly articulate expectations and responsibilities.

The Employee Engagement Survey: A well-considered employee engagement survey, governed by strict confidentiality rules, allows employees to express attitudes and fears honestly. Results must be reviewed with equanimity. Develop and execute an action plan to address difficulties. For larger companies, a third party administrator helps ensure objectivity.

The Human Resources Manager: The professional HR Manager can act as a strong facilitator, advocate, ombudsman and broker to resolve issues of fear. The HR Manager may act as an unbiased and thoughtful representative of the company who will seriously consider concerns of both employee and manager. The HR Manager can diffuse many small concerns before they become unmanageable.

The Employee Assistance Program: Fear can provoke reactions that range from counterproductive to dangerous. It can manifest itself in afflictions such as depression, substance abuse, absenteeism, and antisocial behaviour. The company-sponsored EAP provides concerned employees with an outlet to express problems, and take positive steps toward resolution.You are not alone

An Employee Hotline: A company-sponsored 1-800 hotline allows employees and managers to report problematic behaviour and to express a wide range of concerns safely and anonymously. Issues revealed via the hotline must be acted upon with great urgency.

The Joint Health and Safety Committee: The Canadian Ontario Ministry of Labour, for example, mandates the establishment of a Health and Safety Committee for workplaces employing twenty or more persons. An engaged and empowered H&S team does not focus simply on hardhats and forklifts – it can act upon a variety of counterproductive behaviours.


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