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Anonymous User

Why do managers use "management by fear"?

So many times I have seen managers that use their power as managers to scare people to do things. Why does this still exist in 21 century? This is an old school way of managing that we should flush out. I am curious why others think this practice still exists.

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Mats what do you expect to get from asking a question like that? I'm teasing of course and I hope my humor is not overdone. Seriously, I think you pose a very important question. I can think of two reasons (surely there are more): 1) the managers own inadequacies and fears that they are incapable of maintaining control and 2) a feeling that such behavior will make the managers boss(es) happy. Both of these reflect poorly on the person(s) to whom the manager reports. In part I think it still exists today because factors 1 and 2 afflict senior management as well.


Our culture still contains this approach to handling children. When you are raised this way, it is very difficult to not have this same behavior as you move on through life.

So the solution is to somehow get mothers and fathers to quit threatening their children so they will behave. The same goes for all levels of school.

Then, as managers are groomed for their roles, good companies should perform training and performance analaysis that ensures that threatening behavior is not performed.

And as individuals, we simply will not work for threatening managers. We will find work elsewhere and move on. But there's the rub. Jobs are scarce. It's not easy to find another job. So the threatening manager gets away with his (or her) abhorent behavior. He or she threatens because he can.


It's all they know Mats and consequently they are living on the liability side of the balance sheet. Impact? Lack of engagement + reduced productivity = high turnover. Today true leaders lead from the heart and those who do, reap the benefits.


I think we need to at this from the following viewpoints:
1. The brought up
2. The culture of the society
3. The hierarchy level of the manager
4. The perception and quality of the manager

At different mix of the above, different results expected. "Management by fear" may not be the same as before, but it should remain effective in some forms and with new features such as fear + sweetener + freebies.

Anonymous User

Very often when they can't get enough credibility among the employees


I will try answer this this way-----If you have an employee or group of employees who do not adhere who choose not to listen, or tend to tune you out and think they gat away with it, and yet you think they have potential, sometimes you use the stick to get their attention......


Hi Mats,
I guess many mangers just dismiss the most important aspect of leadership ,which is credibility .
In order to be credible leader one should possess the following traits.
1-Communication skills
2-Interpersonal skills
The manger's dilemma begins when he realizes that his credibility score is low ,so to compensate for this he might practice authority which is the only guaranteed tool that he possess to imply his orders.
Another factor is possessing an ideologic or autocratic leadership style which as you mentioned is an old school approach.
I believe that most convenient leadership styles that manger should pursue is the pragmatic leadership style.
Where he utilize his skills and expertise in overcoming the challenges that arises at any situation.
Please watch this video on pragmatic leadership for more info https://youtu.be/HngE46if1mk
Leadership styles : https://youtu.be/HngE46if1mk
Thank you

Anonymous User

Usually through lack of confidence and skills. This is why it is so important to give Managers the skills they need to be the best managers they can. They also need training in how to coach as managers and how to update their management style in response to the different drivers of the Generation Y employees now in the workplace.


Hi Mats,

For two reasons:
1. they don't know they are. And they need help with self awareness
2. they think it is the most effective means to lead. In which case they still need help with building self awareness, but to talk through their motives in leading in that fashion and why they think that is the most effective means. That requires coaching and feedback and demonstration of on the ground impact.

Everybody acts out of good intention. Even managers who lead through fear... for example maybe they are concerned about maintaining control and order. Maybe they aren't comfortable with having personal conversations and so that way they maintain distance. Could be any number of reasons. There is nothing wrong with those concerns, the important part is to demonstrate the negative impact of that choice of leadership and help them find better ways to manage those concerns without making those choices.

My two cents!


This is a question many people ask, Mats, which tells us this is still too frequent.

There can be different reasons by people resort to this approach - insecurity, they know no other way, that's their personality, fear of failure, their view of people as lazy or incompetent or aiming for their position.

In the end, the absolute worst response to this type of behavior is enabling it yet do you want to know what the most common reaction to such behavior is? You guessed it - enabling.

People who lead by fear need to realize their behavior is counterproductive to the organizational goals and the manager's personal goals.

People like this are low in emotional intelligence most likely, suffer false beliefs and are in need of stress management coaching, anger management coaching and leadership coaching.

Second question - do you want to guess how many managers who rely on fear receive the sort of remedy I just mentioned? Very, very few.

Denial rules so enabling rules.

The standard is low.

Yet, that doesn't mean someone can't choose to be the catalyst for change in an organization.

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