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Jan 13, 201411:04 AMMind Your Business

with Corey Chambas

Management by fear and intimidation … it works

(page 1 of 2)

I just finished reading Inferno by Dan Brown, and in the book there’s a line that goes something like this: “Only one form of contagion travels faster than a virus — and that’s fear.” It got stuck it in my head and caused me to think about how fear plays out in business. This definitely relates to the psychology of the individual investor and the stock market, which is alternatively driven by either greed or fear. (“I’m missing out and I’ve got to get in” when it has gone up or “I’ve got to get out” when it has gone down.) But it also made me think about fear and intimidation as a management strategy. Does it work?

I believe it does work for getting short-term desired results. When people are afraid of getting yelled at or maybe even losing their jobs, they are going to do whatever’s required to meet the boss’s explicit expectations. But there are caveats: The effectiveness is short term and it’s about meeting expectations. 

A big limitation is that while someone who is managed via intimidation will fearfully work to meet expectations, he or she will not likely exceed expectations and will certainly not work to his or her full potential. Why would people put in extra effort for a boss they don’t like or respect? They’ll do the minimum required to stay out of hot water, but that’s it. There’s an adage about getting optimal performance from people by capturing not only their heads but also their hearts. If you appeal to your employees in a more respectful and encouraging way, they will be engaged and committed, and even feel motivated to surpass your expectations because their internal expectations will be even higher. 


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Jan 14, 2014 12:40 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

How we currently run/elect our government is probably a better example of using fear. One of the nicest things about having bad /limited TV reception in rural Dane is I don't have to see those Republican TV ads with the lady with the fear laden scary voice.

On the other hand we can see how far governing/ running elections by fear has gotten us in terms of creativity and problem solving.

May 13, 2016 11:29 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

You also need to consider when a disgruntled employee leaves, he will not be favorable to your business. I left a sales position at company that believed in fear & intimidation; I left and took a 500k in sales . Once I told my customers what was going on, they were willing to shift the business without hesitation

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About This Blog

Corey Chambas has over 30 years of business experience. He is the President and CEO of First Business Financial Services, Inc., is chairman of the board of M3 Insurance Solutions, an advisory board member of Aldine Capital Fund, and a member of the board of the United Way of Dane County and the 2018 Campaign Chair.

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