Threat vs Reward: Running a Smooth Organization Pt2

Threat vs Reward: Running a Smooth Organization Pt2

In my last article, Brain to Brain: Running a Smooth Organization Pt1, I looked at how the brain needs stimulation and social activity to create a way to learn and prove behavior. I laid a foundation about the new psychology around neuroscientific research about our brains and how we strive for goals and connection. How the same area and connections in the brain are activated with social pain as with physical pain, which is so often tied with running a smooth organization. Next, I’ll look at how people who lack some desire and stress, don’t fit in with basic threat/reward system of our brains.

Threats to the Brain: Running a Smooth Organization

The next step is to understand what happens to us when we feel that we are under threat.  Neuroscientists have identified areas of the brain that are related to different functions, and this knowledge is also fuelling how neurosurgeons can treat different illnesses.

The area of our brain that differentiates us from other primates, mammals and animals in general is the cerebral cortex, at the front of the brain.  This is the area of the brain that controls rational, analytical thinking, memory, and most cognitive functioning.  Sometime you might hear reference to the term ‘executive functioning.’  This refers to the ability of the cerebral cortex to take control of higher level organization, coding and decoding that take place in the cerebral cortex to allow us to do higher level functions such as making decisions, predicting outcomes, analyzing data, or recognizing patterns.

Stress, Emotions, and Production: Running a Smooth Organization

When we feel like we are threatened, our cerebral cortex starts to shut down and the limbic system, the areas of the brain that regulate emotions, take over.  Think of this as a sliding scale, the larger the threat, the more the cerebral cortex shuts down and the limbic system takes over.  The noticeable impact of this is that we can’t think or reason as clearly as when we are not under threat. Nor can we access memories, make connections or come up with new insights.  As our thinking shuts down, our emotions take over.  You can probably relate to the fuzzy feeling you have in your brain when you’re anxious or scared.  An ability that increases or improves with more limbic activity is motor skills.  You can flee or fight.  The amygdala is the specific area of the brain that control emotional reactions and some call the threat response, particularly when it takes over cerebral cortical functioning as an amygdala hijack.

When it comes to the workplace, your role as a supervisor is to make sure things run smoothly, people have the resources needed to do the job, the strategic objectives are being reached and that people are developing so that they can continue to tackle ever more complex work and/or engage in innovative thinking to drive the agenda of the organization.  Your job is also to make sure that there is a low level of threat for team members – whether the threat comes from the organization, people/coworkers, or you!  You don’t actually want people to be too happy and/or relaxed because then work won’t get done.

We need a small amount of stress to motivate us, to ensure we’re running a smooth organization, but most of us bring loads of stress with us in our personal, emotional baggage – so don’t worry about inducing any!

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