Feb 20, 2019
Author and educator Amy C. Edmundson on creating a company culture that banishes fear and invites openness.
Want results? Banish fear of failure from the workplace.
That was the core message that Amy C. Edmundson, educator and author of The Fearless Organization spelled out in a Spark presentation to Viacom employees.
Too many workers are afraid to ask questions, admit weaknesses or mistakes, offer ideas, or criticize the status quo, Edmundson says. These simple raise-your-hand acts often fall victim to what Edmundson calls “impression management.”
“Nobody at Viacom woke up this morning and jumped out of bed because they could not wait to be ignorant, incompetent, intrusive or negative,” she said. “Most of us would so prefer to look smart, helpful, capable and positive. We are socialized to care about what people think of us.”
But problems can quickly infect an organization in which no one feels comfortable challenging a boss. Whether a patient dies because a nurse fears challenging a doctor’s prescribed dosage of medicine or a multinational auto company is fined billions because an engineer hides vehicles’ environmental shortcomings from management, the consequences can be severe and irreversible.
But both the individual and the organization can take steps to encourage a culture of risk-taking and banish fear, Edmunson says, and introduce a “belief that the workplace is safe for interpersonal risk-taking, speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, and even mistakes.”