Acquisitions are hotbeds for threat states. People face incredible amounts of uncertainty about their new role, their colleagues, the new ways of working, and their livelihood. With new talent coming in, they may also feel threats to their status and relatedness. All of which explains why it’s critical for leaders to begin creating a greater sense of certainty over where the company is headed, boosting employees’ and teams’ autonomy through a sense of ownership in their culture.They can also create a sense of fairness and relatedness by involving everyone.
Concepts like these belong to what NLI calls the SCARF® Model. It’s a framework that refers to the five domains of social threat and reward: status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness, and fairness. Neuroscience research has shown that humans process social threats in much the same way we process physical threats, since our ancient brains still put social exclusion on par with a charging predator.
The consequence of entering a threat state is that the brain quickly diverts resources away from regions that let us problem solve, and instead narrows our focus and activates our freeze, flee, fight response.That’s why it’s so important for leaders to put employees in a reward state during times of change: In order not to feel threatened, people need to see how a new reality can be rewarding.