The science… and the reality!
By Paul Peters
“Impending or actual change lowers self-esteem and the ability to cope with change, just at the time when we most need to learn? Hanlon’s Paradox*1 states.
Today’s financial crisis and its impact on organisational profits and change couldn’t be more effective in lowering self-esteem. There is strong evidence to suggest that when the brain perceives a threat in the environment it closes down our thinking and responds intuitively from the most primitive part of our brain the Amygdala. The Amygdala stimulates the production of hormones that actually divert the blood supply from the higher centres of reasoning in the brain to the major muscle groups in preparation for a fight-or-flight response.
To state the obvious, fear lowers self-esteem! This is what Daniel Goleman in his 1996 book Emotional Intelligence*2 called an ‘Amygdala hijack’. So when your department is being reorganised, when your job is put at risk, or if you are facing financial worries at home its likely that many employees will be experiencing low level Amygdala hijacks much of the time. As Abraham Maslow*3 so clearly stated that higher order self actualisation needs like learning, growth and fulfillment of potential will be completely subordinated when an individuals physical, safety and security needs have been undermined. The brain, you see, cannot differentiate between a physical threat and a social/ emotional threat. So it really doesn’t matter that the risk you associate with having to move job role is nowhere as significant as the risk associated with, lets say, base jumping. Your biology reacts as if the risk were the same - well not absolutely the same - but you take my point. Change actually does ‘dumb us down.’