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By Dr. Marie Gould Harper
Program Director, Management at American Public University
Periodically, I am approached and presented with a situation where an employee feels slighted by his manager. The employee claims he never misses work, volunteers for special projects, completes assignments before the deadlines and is completely loyal to the organization.
However, the manager always favors and showcases a different employee who has to get his way. If not, that individual creates a scene and is then rewarded for that bad behavior by receiving preferential treatment. The first employee yells, “That’s not fair!”
How do you handle this kind of workplace problem? In the past, I have started my discussion with the first employee by saying, “Just as life is unfair, so is the workplace.” Afterward, I work with that employee on how to “manage” the work environment and workplace problems without getting burnt or burnt out.
How Our Emotions, Including Fear, Determine How We React to Workplace Problems
I recently read an article by Danish life coach Max Noble discussing how powerful fear can be. His first scenario made me think about how we allow our emotions to dictate our responses.
For example, what would you do if you walked into a room with eight people and only seven of them were pleasant? Would the eighth person subconsciously stick in your mind?
Noble believes that “our subconscious hums away most of the time without involvement from our conscious mind.” In essence, we automatically react to people and situations and really don’t know why we are doing it. Something is triggered in our subconscious state.
Noble introduces an intriguing perspective based on the general premise that:
- All other emotions die when fear appears.
- Fear is your most potent friend if you want people to react quickly and powerfully.
- With fear, you will have a guaranteed reaction.
In support of his position, Noble suggests we consider how good news doesn’t sell and happy faces don’t receive attention if an angry face is on the scene.
While I do not support these types of behaviors, I do recognize that those reactions occur. We talk about bullying with our children, but what about workplace bullying?
We often have unhappy employees who detract from the workforce and manipulate situations to get their agenda through the maze of office politics. How can we encourage those unhappy employees to “walk into the light” or neutralize the effects of their bad behavior?
Overcoming Unconscious Fear with Neuroleadership
My first reaction would be to advise against allowing fear to take control of your emotions, especially in the workplace. But how do you do that when your conscious state is not always aware of what is occurring in your subconscious? How can we stop giving power to fear? Let’s control the fear with neuroleadership!
Fear has a negative impact on the body and the brain, which leads to high levels of stress and anxiety. Fear counteracts our ability to think rationally. If we allow fearful faces to stimulate our amygdala, we allow fear to be activated in our lives without our knowledge. In summary, fear can be produced in our subconscious selves.
In order to combat our fear, how can we turn this situation around and use our emotions to deal with workplace problems? According to Greek leadership consultant and trainer, Dr. Alkistis Agio, we can challenge our brain to activate the ability to achieve self-leadership and influence. She has created the Alkistis model, which speaks to how we can influence others through the use of our ethos, pathos and logos.
If we can control the subconscious reactions that occur in our brains, we will have the opportunity to remove the negative effect of angry faces and destructive behavior from the workplace and resolve workplace problems. Let’s neutralize the power of fear!
About the Author
Dr. Marie Gould Harper is the Program Director of Management at American Public University. She holds an undergraduate degree in psychology from Wellesley College, a master’s degree in instructional systems from Pennsylvania State University and a doctorate in business from Capella University. She is a progressive coach, facilitator, writer, strategist and human resources/organizational development professional with more than 30 years of leadership, project management, and administrative experience. Dr. Gould Harper has worked in both corporate and academic environments.
Dr. Gould Harper is an innovative thinker and strong leader, manifesting people skills, a methodical approach to problems, organizational vision and ability to inspire followers. She is committed to continuous improvement in organizational effectiveness and human capital development, customer service and the development of future leaders.