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Humans – even at work – are often driven by fear

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The media is rife with examples of how human nature is strongly driven by fear: fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of success – even. Human nature doesn’t leave the equation when we put on our corporate badges and walk through the glass doors of our corporate office.

We’re still human. And we still fear.

One of the major fears that plagues even the most relaxed corporate employee is the fear of failure. We advise the new guy to stay away from political quagmires. We sell against our competition with the tried and tested Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) formula. We wield fear as a weapon and we call on fear as an excuse.

Server crash failure error outage

Source: Thinkstock / AKodisinghe

It’s important to drag that fear out of the shadows. In my line of work with disaster recovery, that means bringing someone face-to-face with the terrible, horrible likelihood of A BAD THING HAPPENING. To do that, it’s important to remember: people tend to confront their fears if they can see a solution – a good solution.

We’re all turtles, hiding in our shells until someone shows us a sliver of dawn on the horizon.

In my world – Disaster-Recovery-as-a-Service – the technology has shifted fundamentally in the last few years. It’s the difference between landlines and iPhones, between Model T’s and a Four Wheel Drive, between the pony express and email – you get the picture

But, given that it’s a bit of an esoteric corner of the tech space, the emergence of this new technology hasn’t manifested itself in lines of eager buyers, waiting in eight hour queues for the chance to sign up. Knowledge is slow to travel – and faith in the information takes time.

The same human responses – in far more corporate clothing – come out. It’s smoke and mirrors – it can’t possibly work. Sure, but what’s the catch? And who do I call if it fails – a call centre in Moldova? And, of course… we’ve never had a disaster.

That’s the place we all retreat to in our core: denial. It has never happened to us – and it will never happen to us. Surveys show that upwards of 70% of companies have had to trigger some disaster plan in the past year – and yet, it will never happen to us.

And frankly, that’s how we all get by in this world. This is the protective part of our psyche that enables us to get behind the wheel of a car, ride an airplane, or invest our money without falling into paralysing levels of anxiety. But, it can be counterproductive to keeping an open mind.

So my job becomes a timing game of dancing between the synapses in the corporate brain. Show them the facts – it will happen to you. Most likely, it won’t be a calamity or wide-spread event. It will probably be a huge inconvenience triggered by a power outage or faulty upgrade. And, in the few moments before they retreat back into the shell of denial, I gesture wildly towards the horizon – the solution is easier than you think.

I should do the research, but I’m willing to bet that people are far more likely to get tested for ailments where a solution is understood to be routine. Why learn you can’t be cured? Denial is far more pleasant. That’s why quick fix answers to diets and exercise and smoking cessation are so popular – because the long hard road is too much to bear.

Corporate humans are just humans in suits. And, while they may never make it to the top viral videos list, seeing a company triumph over fear and obstacles to save themselves from peril is a no-less-inspiring story than those heartwarming videos of kids and dogs. At least, to those of us battling fear.

Lilac Schoenbeck is VP of Product Marketing and Development at cloud infrastructure provider iland.

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