It is estimated that there are over 2.6 billion people around the world in some kind of lockdown.
The World Economic Forum Reported last year that this psychological stress is 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, which will only become intensified over this pandemic, 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 during this pandemic.
What Might FIGHT, FLIGHT or FREEZE Look Like in the Workplace?
- Movement towards the threat to solve the problem
- Overly competitive
- Demanding special treatment
- Overly goal/task focused but not socially connected
Insult, Blame, Mistreat
- Movement away from the threat to avoid the problem
- Difficulty in focusing on what is important
- Missing meetings
Distracted, pensive, apprehensive
Avoid, Omit, Sabotage
- 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
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 again, summarise 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.
Over the coming weeks, I will cover each of these points in more detail to provide support during this Coronavirus Pandemic. Feel free to contact me if there is a particular topic you’d like me to write on.
In response to these difficult times, I’ve made available two coaching hours a week to support two Leaders and their teams facing crises at no cost. Contact me on a first-come, first-served basis if you are interested.
- Schauer, M. and Elbert, T., 2020. Dissociation Following Traumatic Stress: Etiology And Treatment.. [online] Semanticscholar.org. Available at: <https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Dissociation-following-traumatic-stress%3A-Etiology-Schauer-Elbert/baf653f3216ce9ffe277874b358b2dbebaa283af/figure/0> [Accessed 21 April 2020].
- World Economic Forum. 2020. Lockdown Is The World’s Biggest Psychological Experiment – And We Will Pay The Price. [online] Available at: <https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/04/this-is-the-psychological-side-of-the-covid-19-pandemic-that-were-ignoring/> [Accessed 21 April 2020].
- Brooks, S., Webster, R., Smith, L., Wessely, P., Greenberg, P. and Rubin, G., 2020. The psychological impact of quarantine and how to reduce it: rapid review of the evidence. The Lancet, Rapid Review, [online] 395(10227), pp.912-920. Available at: <https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)30460-8/fulltext> [Accessed 21 April 2020].
- Taylor & Francis. 2020. Development And Psychometric Investigation Of An Inventory To Assess Fight, Flight, And Freeze Tendencies: The Fight, Flight, Freeze Questionnaire. [online] Available at: <https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/16506073.2014.972443?casa_token=pHqvE_LZdpwAAAAA%3A2sHYCWDaSpt6PFjzB7GjufKysfQ_h0uxKRZp29Lq8xIK88QLyJ1yVtF9AiZ-pCFBPj9ciZMa8A> [Accessed 21 April 2020].
- Webster, V., Brough, P. and Daly, K., 2016. Fight, Flight Or Freeze: Common Responses For Follower Coping With Toxic Leadership. [online] www.onlinelibrary.wiley.com. Available at: <https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/smi.2626> [Accessed 21 April 2020].
- Thequietway.com. 2020. Fight, Flight Or Freeze? Our Response To Chronic Stress Or Trauma. – The Quiet Way. [online] Available at: <https://www.thequietway.com/cancer/fight-flight-or-freeze-our-response-to-chronic-stress-or-trauma/> [Accessed 21 April 2020].
- LaConte Consulting. 2018. The 4 Responses To Fear As A Leader – Laconte Consulting. [online] Available at: <https://laconteconsulting.com/2018/12/16/the-4-responses-to-fear-as-a-leader/> [Accessed 21 April 2020].
- Carney Landis (1930) Walter B. Cannon. Bodily Changes in Pain, Hunger, Fear and Rage. (2nd ed., revised and enlarged.) New York: Appleton, 1929. Pp. xvi+404., The Pedagogical Seminary and Journal of Genetic Psychology, 38:1-4, 527-531, DOI: 10.1080/08856559.1930.10532290
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