Our emotions are part of a survival-linked system that developed pretty early on in our human evolution. If you didn’t have any fear reactions back in the Stone Age you weren’t going to be around to pass on your genes for very long. Jump forward a few millennia and we’re no longer grappling saber tooth tigers or keeping track of the best hunting grounds; instead, we’re dealing with frequent change in the workplace and trying to keep up during training sessions.

Our brains, however, are still keeping tabs of our wellbeing according to the same five threat and reward domains it always has: S.C.A.R.F.

Status: What is my relative importance in relation to others?

Certainty: Can I predict what lies ahead?

Autonomy: Do I have a sense of control over events that affect me?

Relatedness: Am I connected to and safe with the others in my group?

Fairness: Are the exchanges within my group fair and equal?

When employees experience reward responses from all five of these domains they react well to communication directed at them. The inverse is true when they experience high levels of threat responses.

Cool, but what does that actually mean?

When you understand that your employees are reacting to internal communications in the work environment according to age-old coding in their amygdala and frontal cortex, you can use that knowledge to tailor more effective communication channels and train your management role players to tap into certain employee emotions when they’re trying to improve internal relations.

It’s as simple (and complex) as that. Get in touch if you want to learn how HolyCow can help you to apply these principles to your internal communications to pave the way to a happier, more engaging working environment that’s a win-win for your employees and your bottom line.


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