During the Covid pandemic it was estimated that there were over 2.6 billion people around the world in some kind of lockdown, increasing stress and uncertainty. 

The World Economic Forum reported last year that this increased psychological stress related to a feeling of a lack of control in the face of uncertainty. That overall, as a society, humans are becoming increasingly angry, anxious, unhappy and lonely, while empathy appears to be declining. Given a more recent review in the Lancet, on the impact of isolation, it is likely that our wellbeing in society won’t have improved.

If this is the psychological ‘soup’ that we are working within, what can we do as leaders to help our people and get the best from them? The Psychosocial approach is used to provide support to individuals during times of crisis.    

 What I like about this approach is that it looks at the individual in their social context. I believe it can give us some insights that will help individuals, teams and groups within our organisations.

What Might FIGHT, FLIGHT or FREEZE Look Like in the Workplace?



Emotions Displayed



  • Movement towards the threat to solve the problem
  • Overly competitive
  • Combative
  • Argumentative
  • Demanding special treatment
  • Overly goal/task focused but not socially connected


Insult, Blame, Mistreat


  • Movement away from the threat to avoid the problem
  • Withdrawing
  • Fidgety
  • Difficulty in focusing on what is important
  • Missing meetings
  • Disengaged

Distracted, pensive, apprehensive

Avoid, Omit, Sabotage


    • Stuck
    • Complying
    • Giving a blank look
    • Refusing to make a decision that would help their situation
    • Not answering your questions
    • An attitude of I can’t
    • Possibly sleepy

    Little emotion

    Justify and Rationalise

    7 Steps To Help Others Face Their Fears In The Workplace








    Centre Yourself: There are many ways of doing this. In brief, be aware of your own emotions and responses. Keep your breathing full and deep, as that will help you to keep calm. Plant your feet firmly on the ground and notice their connection to the floor. The aim here is to keep you aware of yourself and not get lost in the intense emotions of the other person.

    Be in the moment: Listen hard to what is said. Without responding emotionally, categorise the fear response. What could be happening for the other person? Could they be fighting, fleeing, freezing or facing their perceived threat?

    Be kind: Understand that this person might be feeling fearful. Respond firmly with any behaviours that cross your boundaries.

    Get curious about the perceived threat: Often, we fear loss, but what exactly is the danger and how is it being recognised? What words are they using? Summarise what you have heard and check that you’ve understood correctly.

    Look for evidence: Find the facts of the situation. Use how, what, why, when, who questions. Then againsummarise what you have heard and check that you’ve understood correctly.

    Explain: that they are unlikely to get what they want if they respond in the way that they are behaving. Explain how you’d like to help them get what they want.  It might be helpful to give a summary of your expertise in a way that creates reassurance.

    Solution Exploration: in your professional capacity, explore with the person how a solution can be found. Allow time for their thinking to unfold. An explorative approach is less likely to get resistance than if you go directly for a result.


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