PeopleSkills' blog examines human behaviour in the workplace and beyond.
Posts include topics such as individual and team performance, leadership, emotional intelligence, change management, interpersonal relationships, trust, managing conflict, the science of human thinking and behaviour, and other topics relevant to those who strive to improve performance and well-being in the workplace.
www.thereptilianbrainatwork.com will explore workplace relationships and individual and team behaviour using Evolutionary Psychology and Neuroscience to develop tools and models for understanding and change.
Our Reptilian Brain series of seminars and keynotes are listed on the new website. Go there to see a video of Mark Bowden interviewing Bruce van Ryn-Bocking about Email and the Reptilian Brain.
All blogs will now be posted on the new website's blog page. Your comments, of course all most welcome.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reports that between 30 and 40 percent of workers say that their work is extremely stressful and that one of the primary causes of stress at work is the lack of social support from co-workers or supervisors.
Toronto's Globe and Mail states that stress-related absences cost Canadian employers more than $10 billion a year.
Dr. Bruce McEwen reports that the Hippocampus (part of the brain responsible for memory) shrinks when affected by high levels of cortisone, the hormone released by the adrenal glands when people are subjected to stress, including psychosocial stress.
Whether it's employee absenteeism or memory problems, there are many reasons why employers should be concerned about stress in the workplace.
After supervisors in a manufacturing plant received training in emotional competencies such as how to listen better, lost-time accidents were reduced by 50 percent, formal grievances were reduced from an average of 15 per year to 3 per year and the plant exceeded productivity goals by $250,000 (Pesuric & Byham, 1996).
Listening is free, but not all listening is equal.
Listening can accelerate tension and raise stress levels, or it can reduce tension and calm the Reptilian Brain (the primitive part of our brain that manages stress).
A team at UCLA used Functional MRIs to show that naming emotions reduces the emotional reaction (in the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for fight-flight-freeze reactions).
So, reducing stress by listening is easy: just identify the emotions that the other person is expressing, even in the workplace.
It just takes seconds... but it does take practice.
And don't forget: be sensitive to the culture of the workplace and the background of the speaker.
In this day and age, traditional advertising is seen by many professionals and corporations as a waste of time and money. Many magazines and newspapers have seen their revenues drop precipitiously over the last five years, as businesses start to experiment with the likes of Google AdWords and pay-per-click advertising. Social networking is becoming big business and changing the world... or is it?
"Look, technology is going to solve the energy problem. I'm convinced of it. But technology does not and cannot change the underlying dynamics of 'human' problems: it does not make it easier to love or to motivate or to dream or convince."
Adding fuel to the fire, Tim Adams of the Guardian has responded with an article detailing the reactions of social media advocates that makes for interesting reading.
I'm not going to wade into the fray at this point. Social marketing is still somewhat of an experiment, and while I don't necessarily agree or disagree with Malcolm, one key deficiency of the new technologies is that they, like email, lack essential non-verbal messages. Perhaps this is part of the reason they are failing to really influence any major social change.
In the absence of those all-important non-verbal cues, each one of us does the best we can with limited information: we guess, we ignore, we worry, we assume. It can be vitally important to take care when crafting online messages, limited to 140 characters or not, so that our meaning is not misunderstood. If the issue is one fraught with concern, don't use email or social media: arrange a face-to-face meeting, or pick up the phone.
I'll leave you to reflect on all this and make up your own minds... In the meantime, however, why not check us out on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn? :)
In today's digital age, email is the communication medium of choice for most businesses. So it made sense that when Chelsea, a journalism student, needed information from Apple's Media Relations Department for the paper she was writing on the use of iPads in academic settings, she sent them an email. When after several emails, she still hadn't heard back, she wrote directly to Steve Jobs explaining her issue with receiving a reply. However, Steve wrote back explaining that Apple's "goals do not include helping you get a good grade. Sorry." A brief correspondence ensued, concluding with Steve's final reply: "Please leave us alone".
The Reptilian Brain is the primitive part of every human brain that is responsible for self-preservation. It is self-centered, territorial and uses black and white thinking. Under stress, it goes into "fight or flight" mode. It’s obvious which part of Jobs’ brain was writing back to Chelsea: his Reptilian Brain. We all know that he been quite stressed lately due to big health problems, and perhaps that explains why his Reptilian Brain was triggered. Or perhaps it was late at night, and he was just tired and defending his personal space. At any rate, the media love stories about Reptilian Brain behaviour - it sells newspapers and draws people to websites, Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook. This story is on ABC News.
As well as a Reptilian Brain, each human brain has a Limbic System; this is the part that is connected to other people. It is tribal in nature and is responsible for our emotional life and relationships with others. Chelsea's Limbic System obviously believed that she was part of the Apple "tribe" and was responsible for her reaching out to Steve.
So, how do we fix problems like this?
First, email is a poor medium for building or maintaining relationships. It lacks the essential emotional content that is primarily non-verbal. Messages written by our Limbic Systems are often misunderstood by the recipient. (Emoticons don't help!)
Secondly, Reptilian Brains should never use email. The message lasts in time (as opposed to a verbal comment which disappears as soon as it is spoken) and if sensational enough, gets forwarded, posted, leaked either internally within an organization or externally as in this case.
What should we do when our Reptilian Brains are triggered by an email?
Wait 24 hours before answering. Often conflicts don't have the same intensity a day later.
Write a draft reply and show it to a neutral party/friend to edit before sending. They'll take out the inflammatory pieces.
What Steve could have done is quite easy: "Thanks for writing, Chelsea. I've forwarded this on to my contact in our Media Relations Department, and he/she should be getting back to you soon. Good luck with the paper."
The Reptilian Brain would never write an email like that, but the Limbic System would. Ironically, it would probably have saved Apple's Media Relations Department a lot of time. I'm sure that they have been quite busy about this story!
Have you ever received any emails sent by someone’s Reptilian Brain? We’d love to hear from you; share your story in the comments or on our Facebook page!