Imagine that you can never fire or be fired?

February 09, 2016

Over the next couple of weeks, I want to introduce you to quite an inspiring company and one of its managing directors Kevin McCoy. The company went from a stable 25% growth to a stable 100% annual growth by making one decision. The additional growth is great, but that is not really why it is so inspiring. That just proves that their decision to take fear out of the workplace more than paid off.

Fear is one of the biggest polluters of the workplace. It affects everything, and it is unfortunately a very real and present problem. Just last week I had coffee with an acquaintance of mine, who just resigned from a large Danish corporation, that publicly prides itself on a work culture characterized by ’being a family’ ’focusing on satisfied employees’, and ‘joy’ and ‘trust’. The reality however is a different story.

The reality is a CEO who has no problem taking his hand to his throat, making a gesture of slicing it, while saying to his management team that this will be the consequence if they do not …(fill out the blanks)….. This way of leading and motivating people, obviously transcends to the rest of the organization, where you’ll find stressed out leaders, who kick down in the same manner to ensure their “throat” stays untouched.

My friend luckily decided to take her talents elsewhere. But for many people, they stay in this environment their entire career.

Fear has been an acceptable motivator for years, and it is so ingrained in management that people don’t even question it. Sometimes it is expressed explicitly with threats and sometimes it is a more implicit part of the performance culture. But it is there.

And you might say, yes – but it works. And you are right, it does. People do push themselves, cut corners and push others. To hit that target. To secure that deal. To get the budget secured. To be efficient. Because if they don’t, it is out. So they do. Because they have a family and a home.

But what is the consequence of motivating employees in this way? High turnover, stressed out employees who feel emotionally unsafe. Lack of risk taking and honesty, which leads to lack of innovation. Errors. Unethical behaviors. Aggressive behavior, which damages collaborations.

I find that for many in top management that is just the name of the game. It is the way they themselves have been brought up, so they don’t see any other way to be successful. And if they do, the conditions in the organization don’t allow for it.

But what if there was another way of being successful? What if there was another way to organize the organization, so fear could be taking out of the equation? And it would cause even better performance?

I want to introduce you to Next Jump, an e-commerce company who made a decision, which not only changed the business, but also the lives of its employees about 5 years ago. They decided that they would introduce a ‘No Firing Policy’. Meaning, you cannot get fired unless you steal or act morally reprehensible. This create a ‘zone of safety’ for all employees – listen in:

Of course having a no fire policy like this impacts everything in an organization. Just to mention a few things – it requires you to

  1. Get your recruiting process in order 
  2. Align purpose and people  
  3. Be very clear and specific about what you look for in people (and this one might surprise you)
  4. Invest in people

I will explore these topics in more depth the following weeks, so stay tuned – and if you like, sign up for my newsletter if you want to get notified of new content.

Share This