Neuroscience shows threats bad and freedom good

Managing with the Brain in Mind

David Rock

AUTUMN 2009, ISSUE 56

…Although a job is often regarded as a purely economic transaction, in which people exchange their labor for financial compensation, the brain experiences the workplace first and foremost as a social system. …People who feel betrayed or unrecognized at work — for example, when they are reprimanded, given an assignment that seems unworthy, or told to take a pay cut — experience it as a neural impulse, as powerful and painful as a blow to the head. Most people who work in companies learn to rationalize or temper their reactions; they “suck it up,” as the common parlance puts it. But they also limit their commitment and engagement. They become purely transactional employees, reluctant to give more of themselves to the company, because the social context stands in their way. Leaders who understand this dynamic can more effectively engage their employees’ best talents, support collaborative teams, and create an environment that fosters productive change.

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