The emotions aren’t always immediately subject to reason, but they are always immediately subject to action.
– William James
Workplaces bring together a diverse array of personalities and professional styles. This diversity can be extremely productive or it can be a major headache for everyone, especially managers. Interpersonal relationships and the wide range of people’s reactions require a lot of our attention and energy.
It is important for anyone who is managing or working with a group of people to understand the role The Almond Effect® plays in the workplace. I created this concept to give us insight into other employee’s behaviour as well as our own leadership style. The Almond Effect® is when our amygdala trigger us to react without thinking, and we say or do things that we regret afterwards.
As a friend of mine said recently, “I have some minor challenges, doing ‘almond’ things at present. At least I can see them happening, and am trying not to react.”
Positive and Negative reactions
In your workplace, you probably know who usually reacts negatively to certain events. You also know who will take a positive approach and proactively deal with situations.
How people respond is linked to our limbic brain’s primary goal of survival and the fight or flight mechanism. In tense situations at work, whether you’ fight’, so to speak, or take flight, depends on your past experiences, emotional intelligence and emotional memory. It is a natural instinctive response. It happens because the main function of our amygdala (the emotional receptor in our brain) is to recognise and survive threats. Even though perceived threats in the work place aren’t life threatening, this part of the brain still responds as if they were.
Look at this example of a fight response at work. A manager or team member takes offence when his/her logic or ideas are questioned or challenged. I have seen this happen often and I am sure you have too. There are three possible responses – stay in control, fight or flight.
A person with high-level Reaction Management skills may feel anxious or even angry but will still manage to control himself or herself and respond calmly, logically. This is proactive reaction to an emotional surge. They are in control of their emotions, not the other way around.
The Almond Effect® takes hold
On the other hand, another person may take offence, feel insecure, get angry and in turn react aggressively to the challenge, shouting at people, threatening them. This is an example of a negative and over-reactive response. Their brain’s reaction to what it perceives as a threat is to ‘fight’ which is usually an inappropriate mode of response to a natural workplace situation.
Alternatively, they might storm out of the room, or burst into tears or just withdraw, giving everyone ‘the silent treatment’. This is the flight reaction. In both situations, they have just experienced The Almond Effect® and acted without thinking.
The potential difficulty here is that The Almond Effect® may not stay confined to the person whose ideas have been challenged. Once anyone in the room witnesses a verbal attack on a colleague, they in turn may experience The Almond Effect®, and react in a way they may later regret. Emotions are contagious. The bad feeling is now established.
It is a statement of the obvious that staying in control is more conducive to a sound-working environment. And this relates to all interactions in an office or other workplaces, at all levels and with all relationships.
Why STAR Reaction Management is important
STAR Reaction Management is something that can help us in our careers and in our personal relationships. A high level of Reaction Management involves self awareness and management of your own emotions as well as a level of consideration and thoughtful responses to others’ emotions. If you can increase your ability to manage your reactions you can decrease the negative outcomes of The Almond Effect®.
STAR also gives an understanding of the neuroscience that you can tap into to create better relationships by understanding how and why you, and others, react in the way we do.
We will explore the components of this Stop – Think – Act – Rewire model in other blog posts.
So consider if you have ever reacted poorly when someone has challenged your ideas or proposal? What happened? In hindsight, was the way you reacted appropriate? What would you do differently if you could have that moment again? What would it take to bring about that different reaction? Reflecting on these questions are all steps towards increasing our self-awareness and our ability to manage The Almond Effect® not only at work but also at home.
As we know only too well, in a workplace with lots of ‘personalities’, we can’t control someone else’s reactions in certain situations, the only reaction we can control is our own.