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Fear in the Workplace

A "must have" for organizations serious about psychological safety.

Order a Set in your language from The GameCrafter 

German version is coming soon

Fear in the Workplace - Virtual Edition

Wondering how this game works in the virtual space?

Watch a recording from Agile Games Twin Cities meetup as a group uses a Mural version to facilitation insightful discussion.

How to play this game?

Competitive Version:

( AKA "Cards Against Humanity" dynamic)

1. Distribute all Fear and Fear Symptoms cards among players.

2. Place "Classify Me" cards in the center, face down.

3. Player #1 takes a "Classify Me" card and reads it to everyone.

4, Other players offer their best Fear or Fear Symptom match for this scenario.

5. Player #1 picks the best match,

    The player whose match was picked gets to keep this "Classify Me" card.

    All Fear/Fear Symptoms cards return to players.  

6. The game continues with Player #2.

Collaborative Version 

( AKA "Storytelling")

1. Distribute all Fear and Fear Symptoms cards among players.

2. Place "Classify Me" cards in the center, face down.

3. Player #1 takes a "Classify Me" card and reads it to everyone.

4, Other players offer their best Fear or Fear Symptom match for this scenario.

Hint:  Think about multiple perspective in the :Classify Me" card: the person, who is saying that, their team members, their boss. Can you find the best Fear match? 

5.The players have a conversation about this scenario, the impact of these Fears and potential ways to address them. At the end of discussion "Classify Me" card gets discarded.  All Fear/Fear Symptoms cards return to players.

6. The game continues with Player #2.

Lean Coffee-style

1. Remove "Classify Me" cards.

2. Place all Fears and Fear Symptoms cards in the middle, face up.

Using Dot Voting, select top 5 Fears that you've "Observed" in your teams or your organization.

3. Prioritize the top 5 fears and start a time boxed conversation

   with the intent to find a way to deal with that fear.


When to play this game?

We use the Fear cards for

  1. retrospectives ( Fear-based retrospective)

  2. one-on-one coaching conversations

  3. Lean Coffee

  4. Community of Practice meetups.


Somehow, pointing to silly monster images, dot-voting, prioritizing them for further conversations

 helps to externalize feelings, to step back and to have deep discussions.In one of the organizations, we even brought in the Fear deck to facilitate a conversation between a new remote manager and her co-located team. As one of the team members noted:

"It was so simple and SO effective, propelling the conversation forward in ways we never would have been able to otherwise."

Every card in this deck has a story. Together they give the teams a shared vocabulary, externalize fears and simplify difficult conversations.


Why this game?

Many researchers in their independent studies identified psychological safety as one of the most critical elements in enabling engagement, innovation and high performance.( Google's project AristotleAmy EdmondsonWilliam A. Kahn).

If you are following DevOps movement, you will recognize safety as a prerequisite for the Third Way of DevOps - "Culture of Continual Experimentation and Learning".

Yet, in many organizations today one can observe symptoms of fear: endless meetings, employees’ disengagement, blame and a lack of trust.

It doesn't have to be that way! Help your teams and your organization take the first step away from a culture of fear. You can enable deep conversation and move closer to a culture of learning and psychological safety with "Fear in the Workplace" game.

Initially designed by Dana Pylayeva for her keynote session at Agile Games 2018, this set is a collection of typical signs of toxic culture in the workplace. The fears in this deck have been discovered in coaching engagements in US, UK, Ireland, Canada and Japan. 

"Safety in the Workplace" extension


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The set includes a number of safety enhancers and a variety of tools designed to increase psychological safety. As organizations need to attack fear from all fronts, this deck will include practices effective in fighting organizational fears at individual, team as well as the leadership levels.

Order a Set  from The GameCrafter 

    Featured at International Conferences

  • Agile Games 2018 Keynote, Boston, USA ("Team up to eradicate fear" slides)

  • Agile Camp San Francisco 2018, USA

      ("Team Up to Eradicate Fear from Organizational Culture" video)

  • INTED2019 - 13th International Technology, Education and Development Conference, Spain

  • Global Scrum Gathering Austin 2019, USA ("Team up to eradicate fear")

  • Agile + DevOps West 2019, Las Vegas, USA

      ("You Can't Have DevOps if Fear Is Running Your Workplace" )

  • AgileCamp New York Metro 2019, NYC, USA

  • Agile + DevOps East 2019, Orlando, USA

  • OOP2020, February 2020m Munich, Germany

  • AgileIndia 2020, March, Bengaluru, India (scheduled)

Check out "Dealing with Fear in the Workplace" podcast with Dana Pylayeva recorded by SolutionsIQ.

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