How prevalent is fear in your workplace?

Fear is an involuntary reaction prompted by a stressful stimulus. When we see a bear up here in our Rocky Mountain neighborhood, our hearts race, our breathing gets faster, and our muscles tense. Our bodies initiate a fight or flight response, trying to ensure our survival.

Fear generates a similar reaction at work. We tense up, our heart races, our breathing speeds up. We are in survival mode. We can’t be cooperative, supportive, or creative when we’re convinced we are in danger – of being ridiculed, of being blamed, of making mistakes, or of failing.

Garry Ridge, President and CEO of the WD-40 Company, has this figured out. When he was promoted to lead the company 20 years ago, he knew that global growth was key to sustaining the business. He and his executive team realized that global growth demanded a work culture based on values, fun, and cooperation across their team.

In a recent conversation with Garry and a client’s executive team, Garry explained that real traction towards their desired culture didn’t come about until they removed fear from their workplace.

In today’s three-minute episode of my Culture Leadership Charge video series, I share the open secret of WD-40 Company’s tribal culture – replacing fear with learning moments.

My Culture Leadership Charge series features short (two-to-three-minute) videos that describe proven culture leadership and servant leadership practices that boost engagement, service, and results across your work teams, departments, regions, and even your entire company.

Each episode’s “charge” is a challenge for everyone in your organization – not just leaders – to refine their behaviors and ensure everyone is treated respectfully at all times.

You’ll find my Culture Leadership Charge episodes and more on my YouTube channel. If you like what you see, please subscribe!

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Photo © Adobe Stock – Sergey Nivens. All rights reserved.

How prevalent is “leadership by fear” behaviors in your workplace? How different would your work environment be if fear was removed – and replaced with learning moments? Share your insights on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

S. Chris Edmonds

Chris helps leaders create purposeful, positive, productive work cultures. He's a speaker, author, and executive consultant. He blogs, podcasts, and video casts. He is the author of two Amazon bestsellers: Good Comes First (2021) and The Culture Engine (2014).
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Reader Interactions


  1. Dale Gustafson says

    Great points! I’ve always believed that too many “leaders” resort to using a “fear factor” in getting compliance from their followers. Big mistake!

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