Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Cost of Hiring a Coward

I don’t have the actual amount, but you can identify the effect of un-managed fear. When you do, you can approximate the cost of lost opportunities and unsolved problems.

“Coward” is a strong word. It’s also broad, so let me enumerate behaviors that I think are cowardly. You may or may not agree with me, that’s not important. Let’s focus on what these behaviors do to the workplace and the business.
  • Fear of goals – Some employees fear goals. They don’t like life goals, they most certainly dislike work goals. When people hesitate to set goals, they lack the motivation to take initiative. They focus on compliance and often, minimum compliance at that.
  •  Fear of change – cowards don’t like uncertainty. They like their comfort zone.  Your company cowards are often the first resistors of change.
  •  Indecision – Often, people who couldn’t decide, know what decisions to make. What they are afraid of is the idea that they might be wrong an fail. They fear failure and blame.
  • Inaction – One thing you can do with indecisive people is decide for them. Some people however, have overwhelming fear that even if you decide for them, they still fail to act because their afraid that you may be wrong and you will cause their failure.


I’ve always said that some fears are hard to detect. We often associate courage to mean big things like making bold decisions, taking leaps, challenging status quo.  These are not everyday stuff.  There are opportunities to show courage every day that people hesitate to do.  What are these? Not speaking up about a problem, not making an attempt to solve a problem, avoiding to learn a necessary skill, not disagreeing when they should, not taking initiative when they should. The cost of all these are not included in the usual business analytics because companies seldom measure lost opportunities or quantify the cost of inaction.

People who don’t have enough courage to act often underestimate three things; seriousness, urgency, and growth potential. They deny the seriousness of the issue, they look for “timing”, failing to realize that problems tend to grow when not addressed or that opportunities pass when not taken advantage of.  

What to do? I have a few recommendations:
  1.  Avoid hiring them, or hire them for positions that don’t require a lot of decision-making and initiative
  2.  Help your employees develop courage through training, coaching, mentoring and empowerment
  3.  Create an environment that promotes creativity, risk-taking and learning.
  4.  Model the way. When the leader is courageous, the followers develop the confidence to take courage.