Good Leadership – Psychologists Can Help


Leaders are often stereotyped as people who remain in the frontlines, doling out orders to their subordinates while enjoying the profits reaped by the organization he leads. However, a true leader is far from this stereotype. True leaders care about the people underneath and around them. They are skilled in inspiring and motivating their respective teams. They don’t care much about the profits; what they care about is the welfare of their team and how they can utilize the abilities of their team members without burning them out too much. (They even have psychologists to help them out with their mental state, which then makes them even great leaders!)

Emotions are running high in most workplaces. Colleagues often get trapped in a vicious cycle of anxiety, tension, and fear because of several work-related reasons. Hence, team members run the risk of ruining their tasks and decreasing their productivity because of pent-up emotional conflicts.

This is where leaders must step up. They should know how to let their team members become aware of their emotions and how to deal with them. But leaders can’t help their team if they do not know a thing or two about human psychology and how the brain and emotions work together.

Alan Lyons, a business psychologist, says: “This connection is supported by research showing that emotional skills are critical to the successful performance of individuals at the executive level. Further, the more someone progresses through the organizational hierarchy, the more important emotional skills become in their success.”

This article will present you with the main emotional problems that team members often experience. Then, a quick overview of the psychology behind it will be explained, followed by tips on how you can effectively help your team members overcome their emotions in the workplace.

Uncertainty And Changes At Work

There is a new policy on employee schedules at your company. It’s threatening to shake up the daily established routine of your team. And it’s not helping that the CEO wants it to be implemented as soon as possible. You notice most of your team members look apprehensive, and when you try talking to them about the new schedule policy, a vast majority of them think it’s an unwelcome change in your organization. What will you do?

Psychology Says:

The human mind is naturally wired to become a so-called “prediction machine.” The brain is always on the lookout for what will happen next and how the body will respond should that event occur. Dopamine, a feel-good brain chemical, actually floods your brain when your predictions come true.

But if your predictions come back different from what happened in real life, your brain cells start frantically firing off signals that cause panic in your entire brain. Add to that the enhanced activity of the amygdala, a part of your mind known to process your emotions.

Your brain is naturally programmed to protect you from risks by always taking the familiar routines. So, when something uncertain shakes up your activities, your mind gets confused, and it gives you that frantic feeling.

Helping Your Team

Acknowledge the uncertainty your team feels at the moment. Listen to their concerns – maybe some of them are right, after all. But if the change is imminent, gently reassure them that changes in the company are inevitable and that you’ll try your best to help them transition to it as smoothly as possible.

According to Peter T. Coleman, Ph.D., “If there is enough positivity – rapport, trust, liking, friendships – in a team, then the members are more likely to be able to learn from their conflicts and make important adjustments.  Without these emotional buffers – the sting of negative encounters overwhelms us and drags our team down.”


Fear And Anxiety

Workplaces are a ripe avenue for fear and anxiety to thrive. For instance, a colleague who has unstoppable bullying habits elicits fear among his teammates. Or perhaps the company CEO is giving you anxiety due to the unpredictability of his management decisions and orders. Fear and anxiety eventually lead to emotion-driven reactions that can be hard on your team.

“Everyone experiences anxiety,” Dr. Marla Deibler, a licensed clinical psychologist, says. “It is a normal response to stress. Let it in when it shows up. Practice acceptance.”

Psychology Says:

Fear and anxiety stem from the innate ability of humans to protect themselves from threats and danger. Apart from processing human emotions, the amygdala also plays a crucial role in the body’s threat detection and alert system. The amygdala sends quick signals to your brain when it senses a threat.

Your brain has another part that stores both current and past experiences and decides on sane responses for these events. This is called the prefrontal cortex. This part also activates whenever you sense threats, but they send signals slower to the brain than the amygdala does. Hence, your brain perceives emotional cues from the amygdala earlier than the rational responses from the prefrontal cortex.

The result is that your emotions fire off quickly and unconsciously in a threatening situation. You experience fear and anxiety even before your brain knows the actual situation that’s happening.

Helping Your Team:

No one can completely eradicate fear and anxiety in the workplace, not even you as a leader. Situations eliciting these emotional responses will keep coming up, even at the littlest interactions among your team members.

Psychologists offer to coach on how to manage fears and anxieties through breathing exercises properly. Take advantage of these to learn how to rewire your brain. Then, share your newfound knowledge to your team. Proper breathing exercises are crucial in helping the mind take a “breather” before acting on emotional impulses.



Your team has not been performing well for the past few weeks. They’ve been down-in-the-dumps, working robotically but producing output that’s less than expected. How are you going to bring back their confidence and productivity through motivation?

Psychology Says:

When a person is motivated, the feel-good brain chemical dopamine floods the brain and keeps the person highly engaged in whatever it is that they are doing.

But factors such as long-term stress, immediate environment, moods, nutrition, and sleeping patterns can dull motivation and lessen productivity. The brain gets the signal that the person is not in an engaged state, and thus doesn’t produce enough dopamine.

Mistakes can also kill motivation. They become obstacles to a highly-engaged working person. When someone makes a mistake, motivation significantly declines, chiefly if their superiors punish them for it.

Helping Your Team:

Gather your team and gently talk to them about their current performance. Avoid punishing them for their sub-par work. Instead, acknowledge their efforts to work even in their unmotivated state. Let them voice out any concerns that might affect their declining willpower to work, and address these concerns to the best of your ability. Allow innovation and creativity to thrive in your team, and you’ll see that their motivation will slowly but surely come back.

Wrapping It Up

Learning more about psychology will help good leaders spot emotional problems in their team members that could potentially reduce their work productivity and personally harm them in the long run. The most common emotional concerns in the workplace, such as fear, anxiety, uncertainty, and demotivation can all be addressed by acknowledging a person’s feelings and working around to address the concerns underlying it.

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