Dear Boss, Fear is Not Respect

There is a conversation I overhear way too often. It goes like this:

Person: “You better do this or A will be angry.”
Other person: “Oh, I will just explain blah, blah.”
Person: “You know how she/he is. You know what will happen if you do/don’t do this.”
It took me hearing this conversation a few times to get that people were being trained to fear the person in authority. I couldn’t help but think, “Why does that person need to be feared instead of respected?”
We have all had our share of bosses, co-workers, and maybe even family members, who everyone jumped at just the mention of their name. People adjusted their behavior and even speaking level based on the mood of this person. People would scatter as they came into the room just to be out of the path of their anger.
It reminds me of the 1988 movie, ‘Big Business,’ where the boss, Sadie Shelton, has people so afraid of her that the people in the office call each other when she arrives at the building. As she makes her way through the office people dive into closets as she unleashes her venom on those in her view.
Bruno Bettelheim says, “Punishment may make us obey the orders we are given, but at best it will only teach an obedience to authority, not a self-control which enhances our self-respect.” It seems that some people do not understand that respect and obedience through fear are not the same thing.

Steve Jobs, by his own admission, was not the nicest guy in Silicon Valley to work for before he was fired by the company he founded. When he went back some 14 years later, there was a different man at the helm. He was still ambitious and driven, but the angry boss was gone.
We have to make sure as leaders that we are respecting people and treating them properly. When people are treated right, they will give back the respect they have been given.

The other way to put it is, if you think that employee is going to keep all that anger and resentment they receive to themselves, you are in for a rude awakening. Most likely, it is being pushed onto your customers.