How does fear express itself for a manager and what can be done about it?

Fear is a powerful emotion that can have a profound impact on a person’s behaviour, thoughts, and actions. For those in managerial positions, fear can be especially pronounced and can manifest in a variety of ways. Here are a few:

  1. Impostor Syndrome: This is one of the most common and it refers to the feeling of self-doubt and insecurity that one is not qualified for their job, despite evidence to the contrary. This can be particularly pronounced for managers who may feel as though they are constantly under scrutiny and that any mistakes or missteps will be immediately noticed.This is where managers need to focus on their strengths and accomplishments. It is also helpful to seek out feedback from colleagues and subordinates in order to gain a more objective perspective on their performance. In addition, professional development opportunities can help to build confidence and improve skills, which can in turn help to reduce feelings of self-doubt. Companies should support the person especially if they were promoted from being a lone contributor to a role where they are supposed to lead teams.
  1. Fear of Failure: Another common one which can take many forms, from the fear of making a mistake in a high-stakes decision to the fear of not meeting expectations or goals. This fear can lead to a lack of confidence and indecision, making it difficult for managers to make decisions and take action. Many are given positions where they feel they have everything to prove.Adopting a growth mindset and focusing on learning from mistakes can help in this situation. This can involve acknowledging that failure is a natural part of the learning process and seeking out opportunities to learn from past experiences. Breaking down large goals into smaller ones can help to reduce the overwhelm and increase confidence.
  2. Fear of Conflict: Managers are often faced with difficult decisions and may find themselves at odds with colleagues, subordinates, or even superiors. This can lead to feelings of fear and anxiety about the potential for conflict, which can result in indecision, avoidance, or even passive-aggressive behaviour.Focusing on effective communication and conflict resolution skills is key. This can involve seeking out professional development opportunities or seeking the advice of a mentor or coach. Attitude can make it or break it; it’s important to approach conflict with an open mind and a willingness to listen and understand the perspectives of others, as this can help to de-escalate the situation and find a mutually beneficial resolution.

These fears can quickly translate into toxicity in the workplace which can express itself in many different ways, such as

  1. Abusive or Aggressive Behavior: A manager suffering from fear or insecurity may lash out at others in an effort to cover up their own weaknesses. This can include verbal abuse, bullying, or other forms of aggressive behaviour.
  2. Micromanagement: A manager who is struggling with fear of failure may become overly controlling, micromanaging employees and constantly checking in on their work. This can create a stressful and oppressive work environment.
  3. Passive Aggressive Behavior: A manager who is struggling with fear of conflict may avoid confrontation and instead engage in passive-aggressive behaviour, such as making snide comments or withholding important information.
  4. Sabotage: A manager who is struggling with impostor syndrome may engage in sabotage, actively working to undermine the success of others in order to protect their own position.
  5. Blaming and Finger-Pointing: A manager who is struggling with fear of failure may deflect blame onto others, constantly pointing the finger and avoiding accountability for their own actions.

These behaviours can have serious consequences, including decreased morale, reduced productivity, and high turnover rates. It is important to remember that toxic behaviour is not a reflection of personal shortcomings, but rather a learned behaviour that can be unlearned with the right support and resources. By taking a proactive approach to addressing it, you can help to create a positive work environment that benefits everyone.

So, what can you do? What are your options?

  1. Offer Encouragement and Support: Let your manager know that you appreciate their work and that you believe in their abilities. Offer to help with tasks or projects and be available to answer questions or provide support when needed.
  2. Consult them: Come with a problem that you know the manager can solve as an expert. Seek their advice and put it into action. This may help them regulate by feeling seen, heard, and appreciated in the workplace.
  3. Provide Constructive Feedback: Offer your manager specific, actionable feedback on their performance, including both their strengths and areas for improvement. Be sure to do so in a constructive, supportive manner that helps to build their confidence.
  4. Be a Good Listener: Encourage your manager to open up and talk about their concerns or fears. Listen actively and non-judgmentally, and offer your support and understanding.
  5. Offer to Help with Conflict Resolution: If your manager is struggling with conflict, offer to help facilitate a resolution. This can involve setting up a meeting, acting as a mediator, or simply helping to identify potential solutions.
  6. Suggest Professional Development: Encourage your manager to attend training, workshops, or other professional development opportunities that can help build their skills and increase their confidence.
  7. Be Patient: Overcoming fears and insecurities will need time and patience, so be supportive and understanding as your manager works through these challenges.
  8. Communicate Effectively: Clear and open communication can help to address toxic behaviour and resolve conflicts. If you are experiencing toxic behaviour from a manager, schedule a private meeting to discuss your concerns and provide specific examples of their behaviour. Be clear and assertive, but also listen to their perspective and remain respectful.
  9. Establish Boundaries: Set clear boundaries with your manager and make it clear that toxic behaviour is not acceptable. Be firm and consistent in enforcing these boundaries, and seek support if necessary.
  10. Seek Outside Help: If toxic behaviour persists, it may be necessary to seek the assistance of another person to help resolve the situation. Keeping detailed records of incidents can be helpful in this process.
  11. Ask For A Transfer: If none of the above works but you are keen on staying with the company, ask about the possibility to be transferred to another location/department/team.
  12. Look For A Job Elsewhere: If none of the previously mentioned solutions worked for you, you may realize that it’s time to move on to another company. However keep in mind that this may not solve your problem as you may encounter toxicity anywhere you go.




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