Managing Personalities at Work

“The emotions aren’t always immediately subject to reason, but they are always immediately subject to action.” William James

Workplaces bring together a diverse array of personalities and professional styles. This diversity can be extremely productive or it can be a major headache for everyone, especially managers. Interpersonal relationships and people’s reactions require a lot of our attention and energy.

It is important for anyone who is managing or working with a group of people to understand the role The Almond Effect ® plays in the workplace. It gives us insight into other employees as well as our own leadership style. The Almond Effect ® is when we react without thinking, saying or doing things that we regret afterwards. As a friend of mine said recently, “I have some minor challenges, doing almond things at present. At least I can see them happening, and am trying not to react.”

Positive and Negative reactions

In your workplace, you probably know who usually reacts negatively to certain events. You also know who will take a positive approach and proactively deal with situations.

How people respond is linked to our limbic brain’s primary goal of survival and the fight or flight mechanism. In tense situations at work, whether you stay and fight, so to speak, or take flight, depends on your past experiences, emotional intelligence and emotional memory. It is a natural instinctive response. It happens because the main function of our amygdala (the emotional receptor in our brain) is to recognize and survive threats. Even though perceived threats in the work place aren’t life threatening, this part of the brain still responds as if they were.

Look at this example of a fight response at work. A manager or team member takes offence when his/her logic or ideas are questioned or challenged. I have often seen this happen and I am sure you have. There are three possible responses – stay in control, fight or flight.

A person with high-level Reaction Management skills may feel anxious or even angry but will still manage to control himself or herself and respond calmly, logically. This is proactive reaction to an emotional surge. They are in control of their emotions, not the other way around.

The Almond Effect ® takes hold

On the other hand, another person may take offence, feel insecure, get angry and in turn react aggressively to the challenge, shouting at people, threatening them. This is an example of a negative and over-reactive response. Their brain’s reaction to what it perceives as a threat is to ‘fight’ which is usually an inappropriate mode of response to a natural workplace situation.

Alternatively, they might storm out of the room, or burst into tears or just withdraw, giving everyone ‘the silent treatment’. This is the flight reaction. In both situations, they have just experienced The Almond Effect ® and acted without thinking.

The potential difficulty here is that The Almond Effect ® may not stay confined to the person whose ideas have been challenged. Once anyone in the room is verbally attacked, they too can experience The Almond Effect ®, react in a way they may later regret but the bad feeling is now established.

It is a statement of the obvious that staying in control is more conducive to a sound-working environment. And this relates to all interactions within the office environment at all levels and with all relationships.

Why Reaction Management is important

Reaction Management is something that can help us in our careers and in our personal relationships. A high level of Reaction Management involves self awareness and management of your own emotions as well as a level of consideration for others’ emotions. If you can increase your ability to manage your reactions you can decrease the negative outcomes of The Almond Effect ®.

So consider if you have ever reacted poorly when someone has challenged your ideas or proposal? What happened? In hindsight, was the way you reacted appropriate? What would you do differently if you could have that moment again? What would it take to bring about that different reaction? Reflecting on these questions are all steps towards increasing our self-awareness and our ability to manage The Almond Effect ® not only at work but also at home.

As we know only too well, in a workplace with lots of ‘personalities’, we can’t control someone else’s reactions in certain situations, the only reaction we can control is our own.