Anxiety Investigator

Detective-with-magnifying-glassAnxiety is interfering with your organization’s mission.  Unmet needs are the primary source of anxiety.  Great leaders manage to minimize unmet needs and anxiety.  The first step in managing for the unmet needs that are the source of most anxiety is to become an “emotional investigator” spending time observing, and thinking deeply – like a sociologist, or anthropologist.  You can look for the clues both internally (yourself and your organization) and externally (outside yourself and outside your organization,) which are indicators of anxiety.  The following is a very incomplete list of example clues to look for:

Violent Language:

  • “I don’t care what he thinks.”
  • “That’s their problem.”
  • “You should just ‘fire back’ an email.”
  • Gossip & rumors
  • Objectifying – “He’s only a [position, rank, title].”

Violent Actions:

  • Employee theft – cheating on time cards, and expense reports, etc…
  • Lots of “C.Y.A.” emails.
  • Incentive programs meant to bribe/manipulate employees into certain behaviors. (Level 5 leaders don’t use manipulation or intimidation as management tactics.)
  • Employees trying to entrap, embarrass, or blame each other.
  • Finger pointing

Relationship Triangles:

A relationship triangle is one where one person or group is perceived to be the “odd-man” out.  We naturally form these relationships to help manage anxiety.  We look for allies or sympathizers to comfort our anxieties – often to the exclusion of another.  Relationship triangles are interfering with cooperation and synergy between individuals and departments within your organization.

Lack of Empathy:

When we feel threatened, it is natural to behave in ways that are self preserving, self-centered, or narcissistic.  Think for a moment how employees behave when they hear rumors of workforce reductions and lay-offs.  Narcissism and self-centeredness is the opposite of empathy.  Empathy is central to optimizing the human experience, the employee experience, the customer experience. Empathy is fueling our willingness to ask and answer the question – “what does the (employee, vendor, partner, owner) customer want to experience?”, and that is the question.

Simply, you are looking for disruptions or interference in the social interactive energy field that is resonating through your organization.  This interference is frustrating the cooperation, innovation, caring, and generosity that your organization needs to participate in the generative economy.

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2 replies

  1. In the economically unstable climate we now face, changes in work situation do cause a significant amount of stress and anxiety. While the rumor mill can get out of hand, it seems better to let people vent a bit than to threaten against gossip or rumors. If you’re in the position of managing people, but not making the decisions, how would you best manage anxiety for your employees?

  2. Thanks for reading and for your comment. You know your team and your relationship to them. Given that, try to take some time to tap into your inner-genius to discover the appropriate strategy for your situation. Since you asked how I might do it… I would look to minimize the “interference” that the rumor mill generates. First, I want to make sure I’m not part of the problem, keeping my own anxiety and emotions in check. I want to be transparent with my team without being dramatic or “amplifying” the signal that’s interfering with innovation and cooperation. I may be tempted to create a relationship triangle with my reports and the decision makers. This would be tempting so that my reports like me, but these triangles are ultimately divisive and degenerative. Instead, I may try to empathize with both the employee and those who are having to make this tough decision.

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