Remember the last time you went into an Annual Performance Review Discussion and how your heart thumped loudly as you walked into it? It was your amygdala, (an almond shaped “mood” bender located in between your brains temporal lobes) which was sending signals to your cortex to ask to be fearful. Such an experience often has basis in previous experiences where you either have had a boss you have not trusted, or found the culture of the workplace being one where performance review is actually the yearly “dinging” time. It is for this very reason that managers in our organization are coached to give consistent and timely feedback throughout the year.
People are constantly exposed to stress and threat in the workplace. Think of the amygdala as one that has antennas to seek out this fear of threat. Too many emotionally challenging tasks and fear based experiences drive people to the edge until they reach a point of emotional saturation – a point where the amygdala has “high jacked” everything else in the brain. Our impulse control is regulated and controlled by a refreshed, rested, and fully functioning prefrontal cortex. If we constantly saturate the prefrontal cortex by overloading it with information, demanding constant complex decisions, and have no downtime after stressful interactions we cause this “high jack” and limit our ability to maintain impulse control and stay cool and composed.
I am working right now with a client who is clearly in an “amygdala high jack” mode. He has had a fall out with his manager and feels a severe sense of paranoia. Each of his emails read like a person under huge duress gathering evidence to absolve himself. He has not been able to sleep nights and is very emotional in his conversations. My coaching has been to try to get him to get to a point where he can refresh his PFC and start thinking of constructive ways to overcome the situation
Kalpana Sinha is a Leadership and Organisation Professional. Her blog has reflections from her work experiences of over 20 years.