Enacting Fear

It’s just business, nothing personal!  This in not an excuse, it’s a theory.  This phrase reflects the widely accepted paradigm that the conduct of business requires pragmatic impersonal interactions to ensure efficient profitable economic exchange. That is to say, the regulation of relationships is the responsibility of the market and such relationships are free of any purely human concerns and sentiments.  The market cares not about you personally—its survival of the economic fittest. Therefore, with the market in charge, we need not concern ourselves with each other as human beings—or our self for that matter.  All that is required is that we seek our own gain through economic exchange—the invisible hand will take care of the rest.  There is no place for human emotion of any sort getting into the fray; it just makes for inefficiency and ineffectiveness.


If this is so, why does advertising play on the emotions of the consuming public? Why do so many managers/leaders embrace practices (e.g. merit pay, rank-and-yank, reward-punishment) that rely on human emotion, fear? The threat of losing one’s job or of not being number 1 or of being punished or of being labeled a poor performer, who wouldn’t react?  Fear, evident in all animals, is a lower-level emotion but a human emotion nonetheless.

I would be quite surprised if most people would be in favor of living a life of fear: Wouldn’t you?  So why is playing upon or instilling fear so prominent as a management tool? Could it be that those in management are fearful them selves?  Is it possible that managers feel if these practices are taken away then they would fear they would not be able to move anyone to do as they wish—that they would lose control over others?

It seems that most rely on the authority afforded by position—external power—rather than their ability to develop the power of their personhood—internal power. So it appears that the spiritually higher-level emotions such as love and joy are taboo in the conduct of business. Perhaps the higher-level emotions make it very difficult for one to exhort and exploit others for one’s (selfish) gain.

Fear Inside Projects Fear Outside

Psychologists tell us that we project those thoughts and emotions that we suppress and refuse to acknowledge in our self.  Hence the more repressed fear we have the more fear-laden will be our environment. If we repress our very own feelings and emotions, to quote Gary Zukav, “we cannot begin the process of understanding the effects of our emotions upon us, our environment, and other people, of the effects of the emotions of other people upon themselves, their environment and us.”

By repressing our own emotions we are left dealing with them as projections upon others and our environment.  We create a world that we believe is void of emotion, yet that rests upon the very self-defeating lower-level energy that we ourselves repress and enact in the environment.   No wonder so many people present us with so many problems!

Deming’s point eight—drive out fear—is inextricably connected to this phenomenon.  That is, driving out fear requires those in management to become consciously aware of emotions and the affect their (repressed) emotions have on other people. [Deming’s points 2, 7, 10, 11, 12 & 13 speak to the manifestation of this enactment as well.]

Development of the self—yes our very humanness—is foundational to good management and authenticity in leadership, and developing emotional intelligence is part of this.  Until we garner the courage to do this work, as the song goes, we keep looking for love in all the wrong places.  Just think about all the difficulties that are created as a result.

Let’s again ask, how many are in favor of living a life of fear? Responsible people don’t place sharp objects in the hands of children!  Perhaps it is time to challenge the validity of our map for how business is conducted and managed.  Why not make it taboo for those who lack the courage required, and who rely on external power, to hold positions of authority?

17 thoughts on “Enacting Fear

  1. Awesome entry! Though there is an emerging movement to capture Deming’s work into a new metric for business, (Inspiration), it is a slow movement. My hope is that those who have little to no emotional intelligence would use their “only business” like minds to see how much the market rewards those companies who operate without fear as a motivating factor. Example, take a look at the Most Inspiring Companies and notice how 12 of the 25 listed outperformed the S&P in exponential fashion. http://www.mostinspiringcompanies.com

    • It is nice to see others recognizing Deming’s work. I am reminded of what Deming frequently said about the importance of the unknown and unknowable.

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