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Home » Customer, Leadership

How to overcome the recessionary ‘fear factor’

Submitted by on Thursday, 18 June 2009No Comment

Q. What do the following have in common…

• Your Marketing Director omits to make a recommendation in a report which could increase your Y-O-Y sales by 21m Baht

• A project deadline is missed for the second time due to a lack of communication and ‘ownership’. Cost: 7.5 million Baht in contractual obligations

• A number of actions were agreed at the last management meeting, yet two weeks have already passed and none have been implemented                   …?

Strange things are happening in companies at the moment. You would have thought that, with recession looming large, your employees would be falling over themselves to increase sales and delight customers

Yet, in many cases, the reverse is happening. Employees are going into their shells, reluctant to act in any way beyond the perceived ‘norm’, and failing to meet their targets collectively, costing your company tens of millions of Baht. So what’s going on?

The recession is increasing risk-averse behaviours

The answer lies in risk aversion, and in Asia it’s strong. It’s strange how, when people feel their jobs are on the line, the last thing they are likely to do is to:

♦ improve service and teamwork

♦ work out better, or different ways to do things

♦ find innovative solutions which could save costs or generate new sales

♦ try new things, with the risk of possible failure

Why is this? Because many of the above initiatives involve an increase in risk, which in turn means your employees could make mistakes. At a time of recession, any mistake could be catastrophic for an employees chances for keeping his or her job, so the typical behaviour is to avoid any initiative that gives rise to such a possibility.

In other words, just when you need your colleagues to find new ways of increasing sales and margins, they may tacitly be running in the opposite direction – to the perceived safety of risk-averse behaviours, inaction and numbing ‘scarcity mentality’. And, as emotions are contagious, the message is passed along pretty quickly.

…Meanwhile, your company’s sales and performance suffer, forcing you to make cost savings by laying people off…

How to break the syndrome

It’s a self-fulfilling syndrome. Merely drawing your team’s attention to this behaviour is not likely to solve the matter.

Instead, we recommend (at the very least) the following:

1. Identify your existing customers. Go offsite for a day or a weekend with your team and focus on these customers, creating profiles, their likely expectations and aspirations, and their current experiences as your customers. At this point stay away from numbers and zero in on the human elements.

2. Start with the existing ‘value proposition’ you believe you offer these customers, map these on a flip chart, then using index cards involve your colleagues in ways they can enhance the existing proposition. Ask every team member to contribute at least 3 ideas.

3. Ask your team to evaluate the ideas (on their merits to the customers, not cost) and ask them to choose the best ones. Then work out ways these ideas can be implemented as a team, with everyone being clear on the expectations for each, and the behaviours and actions needed to support these.

4. Make it clear that, in trying to attain these goals, you are perfectly happy for your team members to make mistakes, on the basis that the team can then learn from them. Then add compelling rewards (either financial or prizes) for behaviours that attain those goals (including for the ‘best effort’ category)

5. Lastly, ask the team to put in place an action plan with roles assigned to people according to their strengths, in order to support the new approach.

Risk-aversion is seen as a cultural phenomenon among many Asian societies, yet it is a mistake to tackle it in this way. Risk aversion is in reality a human trait, whose root cause is fear, so we recommend an approach that replaces the fear with a vision, a plan, and the confidence and encouragement to make mistakes. Only then can the ‘fear factor’ syndrome be broken and the positives allowed to flow again.


Talent Technologies offers companies two programmes which help them focus on proactively improving their top lines. Customer Relationship Maximisation helps management teams maximise the value of their existing relationships. Customer Value helps teams identify new sources of value they can offer.

Because we involve all your major stakeholders in the experience, with an emphasis on creating deliverable actions, we believe the value to you of these programmes is quite simply… priceless!

For more information on the above please feel free to email us here, or call our office on +662 6393550

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