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- No one comes to you for help. If your employees are looking anywhere for help except your office, there is definitely a problem. How to fix it? Make sure that you are exuding confidence, not superiority. No one wants to be looked down upon or called out because of lack of knowledge.
- High turnover without apparent reasons. If you are losing employees as fast as you can hire them, it is highly likely something offensive is taking place. The fix? Review your hiring policies and speak to your human relations department. It is highly likely someone is hearing complaints, even if it isn’t you.
- Appearances carry more weight than results. If your workplace focuses more on who looks right while doing the job and less on who is actually doing a great job, fear of not meeting that shallow standard will prevail. This problem might be addressed by taking pains to judge strictly on performance, even if your top performer doesn’t know how to dress or sports dreadlocks and tattoos. Creativity often shows itself in nonconformity. Don’t create an environment in which people are afraid to be themselves.
- Distrust among employees is rampant. If no one feels comfortable sharing ideas or knives in the back are commonplace, fear of not being the best is driving your workers. This reflects back on management ideology. To fix it? Encourage impromptu brainstorming sessions with employees taking the lead. Reward the group effort without singling out any one person. Do your best to create a non-competitive atmosphere where the solution is more important than who came up with it, at least some of the time.
- No one is coming up with new ideas. Scared employees are ineffectual employees. If you haven’t heard a fresh idea in a while, it could mean your people are too afraid to suggest a new way of doing something. How to fix this? Until you can establish a less fearful atmosphere, put out a suggestion box. Take time to actually read and act upon any suggestions that have merit. Invest in a professional to come in and conduct trust-building exercises and participate yourself. Take a chance and share information with someone you ordinarily wouldn’t, as long as you are not compromising another working relationship.
While fear can easily take hold in a work environment, trust can also be reestablished, as long as there is an honest desire to see it happen. Don’t be afraid; be the first one to step up and take a chance. As the boss, it’s your job.