Someone who is much smarter than I am, David Rock (http://blog.davidrock.net/) studies the brain and how it’s affected when we are put under real stress. He describes five main ways we feel threatened in his S.C.A.R.F model. In my own words and understanding it goes something like this:
S = Status
If my boss promotes someone over me and now I have to report to my former peer, my status as a leader is threatened and I might feel guarded or insecure about my abilities. So I start looking for another job.
C = Certainty
In a meeting with my new boss, he talks about how the department must change and get better. He’s vague about what he has in mind so my sense of certainty about the future is disrupted. I avoid him and say little in staff meetings, wanting to stay ‘under radar.’
A = Autonomy
The first decision I make under my new boss upsets him because I didn’t check in with him first. I am used to working independently and now my autonomy is threatened. I go to my old boss and complain.
R = Relationships
My new boss begins to meet one-on-one with my direct reports without including me, talking to me first or telling me about the discussions. Now the great relationships and the loyalty of my staff are upset. I let my staff know how upset I am and let them know that I think the new boss is out of line.
F = In a cost cutting move, it’s announced that there will be no more company paid holiday lunches. Considering how hard we work all year, my value of what’s fair is challenged. I inform the staff about the change, making sure they know that it was the new boss’ ‘fault’ we weren’t going out to a nice lunch this year.
These are just a few examples of how we might feel threatened by someone’s behavior. When fearful, we resort to the ‘fight or flight’ response and behave in ways that make matters worse. What would happen and how would the outcome be different if I assumed the best in each of the above situations? What if the other guy’s promotion had nothing to do with my abilities or how the boss sees me? How could the changes ahead be for the better of everyone? Why am I resisting being under authority? What advantages are there for my boss to get to know my team? How could changing the holiday lunch tradition work be an advantage/
I find it amazing how turning a threat into a question can make a big difference.