Culture Killers: Fear (Part 2)

Last week, we took a look at one of our most deeply-rooted fears: the fear of not having enough.

We do our best to face the fact that fear isn’t going anywhere—that it’s a natural part of our human experience.

But where do we go from there? How do we keep fear from driving our lives and our teams? What works against the fear that contaminates our workplaces?

That’s what we’ll get into this week.

How to Fight Fear in the Workplace

You may remember the concept of cumulative toll from our previous post on Everyday Peacemaking. Here’s the idea:

All of our personal interactions add up. Together, they determine the character of a relationship—whether that’s positive (characterized by trust, humility, open conversation) or negative (characterized by blame, shame, unhealthy competition). As we interact with one another, we form patterns of relating.

Sometimes these patterns are filled with shalom, peace. And sometimes they’re the stuff of conflict.

You can imagine what happens when a bunch of people get together.

And you can definitely imagine what happens when a bunch of people get together daily, in an effort to accomplish a shared task. This is culture. This is workplace culture.

The point is that, in culture, the little stuff matters.

For peacemakers, this is good, good news. It means that a little bit of courage can do major work against the fears that rule in our workplaces.

All we really need is just enough positive encouragement to do a single courageous act. That’s how the pattern begins.

So what do these little acts of courage look like in the workplace? How can you invest your courage to change your work life for the better?

  • Humble Leadership — Be quick to own your mistakes. Shame and blame may be the normal cultural response, but when you’re the first to take responsibility, courage has a chance to get there first.

  • Generosity — It’s a lot easier to live in our own task worlds than to be generous with our time, information, and other resources. But these small sacrifices are investments that pay major dividends: in job satisfaction, productivity, and quality of client service. When a culture is made up of generous individuals, everyone gets what they need.

  • Encouragement & Appreciation — To encourage is to give the gift of courage. These aren’t just kind words or manipulative mind games. Words of encouragement and appreciation affirm your coworkers’ dignity. They tell the truth: You are valued as a human being, and not just for what you produce.

  • Celebration — Is success being the hero, or is success helping other people thrive? People who aren’t good to other people succeed all the time—by the typical metric. But when we’re not soley focused on celebrating our own success, we have a whole lot more to celebrate. Celebration works against unhealthy competition. It strengthens our teams. It helps us to become real heroes.

In conclusion...

Start small.

A single, courageous act is a positive reinforcer. It strikes down our limiting fears. It re-humanizes us against fear’s dehumanizing grip, which frees us up to fail well.

And repeat.

There will be times in our lives when we have the opportunity to do something very courageous. But the preparation for that moment is the thousands of courageous acts we do every day.

Keep practicing these small acts of courage. And as you do, think of the cumulative power of those acts beside the acts of courageous coworkers.

That cumulative toll—against deep-seated fear—adds up.


Counterstories is a blog collaboration between conflict resolution specialist Steve Beck and writer/editor Rachael Schmid. If you have a powerful story of forgiveness or peacemaking (or just want to share your thoughts on this post), we’d love to hear from you. Reach out at