Management by Fear? Part One

Jul 15, 2013

Manager with a bullhorn

If you are in management or know anything about management, you are probably familiar with the terms Management by Objectives (MBO), Management by Consultation (MBC), Management by Strengths (MBS), or Management by Walking Around (MBWA). These terms provide managers with strategies to help them manage effectively. In reality, most managers use different strategies depending on what needs to get accomplished.

One style that we don’t often hear about, yet is too often alive and well, is Management by Fear (MBF). I have seen this style used in the police department, in the corporate world, and even in the Church. In this style, managers use fear and intimidation to control their workers and attempt to make them perform better.

Several years ago, a large department store at a mall hired a number of us local police officers to work security there to curb shoplifting. It was an easy job for us and paid well. It also provided me with a unique position to observe how the store was managed. The store manager, George, used Management by Fear as his only management style. I don’t think he knew any others. This had the trickle down effect. Most of his assistant managers utilized the same style.

I would be standing in an area talking to a sales clerk and watching people shop. We would hear George coming because his shoes clicked on the tile floor. The clerk would whisper, “George is coming,” and start acting busy, folding shirts or rearranging a display. George would appear, point to several clothes racks or displays that looked good already, and then order the clerk to straighten them. He would then stomp over to the next department and repeat his performance. This was the only time the employees saw George. His conversations were short, one-way, and unfriendly. I understand that Management by Walking Around (MBWA) is a great way to find out what is going on in the workplace, but this was more like Walking Around and Looking for Something to Criticize.

To be continued…

Have you ever worked for someone like this? Why do you think some managers feel like fear is their only way to motivate workers?

Annie and I are serving in Curitiba, Brazil. Would you consider supporting us? Obrigado! (Thank you!)

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