At a recent conference, I was asked to address what role fear played in decision making and what kind of decisions do we make when we are afraid. It reminded me of an article I had read recently that proposed that work is feeling more and more like a Skinner Box.
So, what’s a Skinner Box? Developed in the 1950’s by B.F. Skinner, an experimental psychologist to train laboratory animals to respond to reward and punishment, after a while we don’t need the actual punishment just the sight of the box can elicit a reaction! The Sunday Fear.
A quick look a the neuroscience of the brain and we quickly discover that living in a constant state of fear and anxiety will see the pre-frontal cortex and hippocampus – the executive centre of the brain – starting to shut down.
Simultaneously, the amygdala – the part of the brain responsible for our emotional responses, specifically fear – gets bigger. This neurobiological process severely undermines our capacity for reflective decision making, calculated risk taking, and exploratory activity. It also makes us more prone to extreme, simple, and cognitively rigid solutions, and less empathetic to and understanding of views different from our own.
More and more of the people I meet are scared. Fear has generalised to the workplace and everything associated with work and income. People are caught in a whirlwind in which we are so scared of loosing our job, our clients, or our savings that fear seems to be overtaking our decision making process.
There is a clue to where this fear may come from. Self care for business owners, leaders and managers could be better. When we are hungry, angry, lonely, tired or vulnerable we are more prone to being fearful. Self care or resilience removes or reduces the likelihood of us being in these less than useful states. Getting better sleep, networking and connecting with others and having a mentor, managing your emotions and reducing vulnerability make you a stronger and more robust leader.
Put this on your agenda this week and think about how you might change this?