Fear Of Commitment

Posted January 29, 2013 by Kristi Royse in On the Ladder
Fear of Commitment

This is the third in a series of blog posts in which we talk about various facets of fear, how it impacts the workplace, and how (and why) we, as women in leadership roles, need to change fear into trust. Here, we talk about fear of commitment.

On the surface this topic sounds like it belongs in an advice to the lovelorn column, but fear of commitment affects our workplaces as well as our personal lives.

Commitment At Work

Overcoming fear of commitment by creating trust in the workplace

There are the obvious commitments that you think of when you think of work:  Projects, meetings, deadlines, daily goals, and more.

Then there is a different kind of commitment – Emotion-based commitment. It’s the commitment we make (or don’t) to co-workers, ideals, leaders, and, ultimately, the organization.

While we may not fear obligatory commitment to our daily duties, we all too often fear commitment to people, even in our work lives.

We may fear:

  • learning the hearts, passions, and backgrounds of coworkers
  • trusting in co-workers, team members and leaders
  • the pursuit of honest communication between ourselves and coworkers

Why Do We Fear Commitment To People?

At the root of it, we are afraid to trust.

We know that when employees feel that their input isn’t valued, their ideas are not considered and their opinion is not solicited, they don’t trust their leaders or their co-workers.

From Patrick Lencioni’s “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team”:

Team members with an absence of trust

  • find reasons to avoid spending time together
  • hold grudges
  • fail to recognize and tap into one another’s skills and experiences
  • jump to conclusions about the intentions and aptitudes of others

It’s no wonder we fear commitment to people when trust is lacking!

It is nearly impossible to see people as a worthwhile commitment when we don’t really ”see” them at all.

How Can Leaders Increase Commitment?

When we dig down, we see that the fear of commitment, based on a lack of trust, prevents employees from engaging – with each other, with the work they are doing, and with the company. When teams are disengaged we get low productivity and high turnover, among other things,  and ultimately, profits suffer.

How do we combat this fear of commitment and help our employees to engage?

As leaders we need to create an environment of trust, where all employees feel heard and valued.
(For more, read my post on trust, here.)

First, take a look at your own actions. Do you:

  • have your employees’ best interests in mind?
  • engage with your people, openly and honestly?
  • behave with integrity and authenticity?
  • express appreciation?

The process starts with you. When you can answer YES to the above questions, you are building trust, and you can’t help but increase your employees’ level of commitment.

Next, think about these questions, related to your teams:

  • How often are team members passionate and unguarded in their discussion?
  • Are team meetings interesting and compelling?
  • During team meetings, are the most important issues discussed?
  • Are people comfortable voicing their opinions even at the risk of causing disagreement?
  • Do team members solicit one another’s opinions during meetings?
  • Do team members communicate unpopular opinions to the group?
  • When conflict occurs, does the team deal with the issue before moving to another subject?

Finally, some questions to ask in evaluating whether or not your team has developed a high level of commitment. Do we:

  • keep our egos in check?
  • let people know they are accepted and valued?
  • speak up openly and honestly when we disagree?
  • follow through on promises, keep our word, and meet expected standards?
  • confront behavioral problems directly?
  • put the success of the team or organization over our own?

Evaluating where your team stands in terms of these questions should give you an idea as to whether or not you are succeeding at committing to cohesion, teamwork, and valuing individuals in your workplace.

Do you value commitment to people in your workplace?  What are some strategies you have found useful when trying to build a culture of commitment in your organization? How do you show your people that you value them and their contributions?


About the Author

Kristi Royse

Kristi believes that leaders create success by inspiring their people to greatness through vision, communication, trust and teamwork, and that female leaders are uniquely positioned to develop this greatness in themselves and others. CEO of KLR Consulting, Kristi is a nationally-recognized speaker, executive coach, facilitator, management consultant, and trainer. Since 1987, Kristi has been coaching executives to be stronger leaders and helping organizations optimize their most vital resource - people.