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We have a healthy team. It’s full of grace, which works well, since that word is in our name. We consistently laugh together. We encourage each other to accomplish our goals. As a leader, I solicit feedback consistently. (I even allow the staff to anonymously evaluate me each year. Read about that process HERE.) We are generally flexible and laid back as an organization, yet we accomplish much towards our mission. I’ve worked in lots of environments and this is a good one…a healthy place to work. I’ve written articles about healthy teams, many of them based on the team on which I serve. (Read some of them HERE, HERE, or HERE.) I think our team would agree we are a healthy environment.

With that being said, I’m not sure we have eliminated what I call organizational fear. I’m not sure there is 100% freedom to share what’s on a person’s heart. I consistently address this concern. I’ve even said that sometimes we are too “nice” as an organization. We need to challenge more, even enter into healthy conflict, but sometimes it seems we are timid towards sharing our true feelings; especially some on the team. Problems exist…people see them…they continue for months…everyone recognizes something is wrong….yet no ones brings them to the surface. This is not a huge problem, or we wouldn’t be as healthy or successful as we are, but for whatever reason, some I may not understand, team members at times shy away from sharing what’s really on their mind. I know this is not something unique to our organization.

Why is that? Have you ever been afraid to share what you were thinking in an organizational setting? What caused that fear in your mind? Help me figure out why organizational fear exists, especially why it exists in a church or ministry setting.

Is it because of:

  • A team member’s fear of making a mistake?
  • Controlling leadership?
  • Fear of taking a risk?
  • Apathy?
  • A false notion that conflict shouldn’t exist in a Christian organization?
  • Other?

Also, help me understand how to address this issue.

What does it take to remove this fear from an team or organization?

Let’s discuss organizational fear today.

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Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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Join the discussion 10 Comments

  • randleman says:

    We had a board meeting last night, and I was thinking about this post during it. It helped that I had my laptop on and your site in front of me… ;).

    I was surprised by the amout of fear present during the discussions: fear of risking failure, fear of changing the staus quo, fear of what the community will think if we tackle this project.

    I kept repeating this phrase: where God leads, God provides. Or some variation of it. Because it's true. When God calls us to d something, he'll provide the resources, and the means, and the way to get it done. Often it'll take soe work on our part as well. But I think that helps explain why we fear: we fear that God won't come through. We lack trust.

    By the way, we made a couple of big decisions last night. Decisions to add to our staff and remodel a part of our facility. And we did it trusting that God will not let us down. Was there fear? Yes. Did we move in spite of it? Als yes.

  • Dalene says:

    I'm not sure what it takes to resolve this fear, but I can tell you some an additional reason for it from my experience a year ago.
    I had an idea get very quickly shot down by a few individuals. Others in the organization jumped on board, seeing its worth – even its necessity, but the few people who didn't want to put in the extra work it would take, or who like status quo, or who just shoot down ideas for the sake of it, turned, twisted, & mangled it up, finding all the negative aspects possible & ignoring the good. Some people just look for the negative & look for ways for it all to be about them so that they can get offended. It's sometimes ridiculous. The leader then had to mediate & help mend all these relationships & focus on the idea got lost. In the end, after the mediation, discussion, & research, the leader & organization saw the worth of the idea & it got implemented & still is being used today.
    *In short, sharing ideas gets held back to avoid unhealthy conflict with others.*

  • chiz says:

    I am King of worrying how someone is gonna take what I say and I've tried to break out of this (to a resonable degree). But one thing I;ve noticed is that without as much love as you can hold in your heart toward the people you are speaking to, your words will not edify the listener.

    Love + Honesty – assumption = ???

  • Jon says:

    I can think of a couple of things; one corporate and one church-related.

    I've been with my company in some form or another (the company not the job or me) for almost 30 years. I have some name recognition and people know that I know my role and my job and I do it well. The company has said over and over that they have an "open door" and non-retaliation policy. Scenario one.

    Scenario two is my church. I've been there almost as long as I've been at my company. I'm not in leadership, an elder or deacon, but I have name recognition there as well. I'm not a boat rocker and I participate where I can. I'm actually thinking about sending the pastor an email outlining how I really would like the body to grow in a way that we have never seemed to want to grow, although I think we are being short-sighted by not doing what I will be requesting.

    I have fear in both scenarios. In the corporate scenario I do not believe management when they say open door or non-retaliation. If I saw something horribly wrong, I'd report it. But I'd be very very very careful on whose toes I stepped on if I really felt a need to change the corporate culture or bring other things to light. Same thing with the church. I fully believe that the email that I am considering sending to the pastor will not get a fair hearing or will be discounted as "he just doesn't get it" or something similar. So fear in both cases, although in both I feel I would be doing the right thing.

    So what fuels that fear? In the company scenario it's knowing how business works and therefore I have a basic mistrust of a company's intentions. Plus if I were to be honest and truthful about things I see that I feel need to be changed, I would be stepping on toes of those who keep the status quo and people are people no matter how nice they say they really are. We all like to think we are doing a great job and when someone shines the light of truth, it can be very uncomfortable and most people don't like being in that position and there is usually a price to be paid by the one shining the light.

    In the church scenario, I believe that we have set so long on a certain point of view and belief that it's become comfortable and I've seen unwillingness to bend or change from our elders and deacons before. Again, people are people, even if they are supposedly doing God's work.

    Not sure if this helps in your environment, but just some thoughts from mine.

  • To remove fear from a team or organization, we need to demonstrate things. We need to walk the talk and make others get the confidence and trust. Without trust, nobody will come out with what is in their heart. Action speaks louder than words. Being a hypocrite, one cannot make their team members to open up their thoughts to them. When you are genuine and transparent, you will be able gain the trust of others. I think that is the key.