The Mind in Crisis!


In the meantime, it has indeed probably become clear to everyone that the pandemic has changed our lives and has had sustainable effects on our working environment. We indeed sense what it means over the long-term to convert our living room into our workroom, to rearrange our work and family lives and to handle complex social and economic changes. That was and is a change process of a dimension which we had never experienced in the past. Gradually, we are now also seeing the long-term effects of the crisis and observing that some people, but also some organisations, are succeeding in handling it better than others are. There are certainly economic framework conditions which are making it very difficult to survive during the crisis; with a decline of more than 70% in turnover in its various segments, the tourism industry is faced with issues of even its very survival. But many other companies were able to control whether they came through these times in a better or worse condition.


In a broad-based study, the NeuroLeadership Institute examined what companies, from a neurological perspective, are doing better than others during these such challenging times. In particular, they addressed the issue regarding what psychological challenges employees are feeling during this crisis and how we in management can help them. In the study, 50% of those surveyed stated that the degree of anxiety that they felt when the crisis broke out has substantially increased from one week to the next week. The feelings of anxiety are rooted in the uncertainty which the employees feel. During crisis periods, we can no longer predict the future and that creates anxiety. However, neurologically, we are also seeking security and certainty and if no one can give this to us anymore, then we begin to act more and more only in our own interest and focus less and less on other persons’ interests and their opinions. But the study also shows that some employees feel more anxiety than others. Owing to additional tasks to shoulder such as, for example, childcare duties, the feelings of anxiety have only increased; negative financial effects have had fewer effects on our feelings of anxiety. 


An additional characteristic which has influenced our feelings of anxiety has been the sense of belonging. As the result of working out of the home office, we have been taken out of our professional socialisation opportunities. We often have lacked a sense of team spirit. During these times, some organisations have succeeded in preserving the employees’ sense of belonging to the team through communication formats which have sometimes even been able to create positive effects during the virtual work. In the current HBR, this has been described particularly by knowledge workers who see many advantages to working from home. However, the challenges still remain in communication – in the conveyance of knowledge and in the socialisation of groups because all the management methods as we practiced them before Corona oftentimes no longer function virtually.


Moreover, the results of the study have once again revealed to us that the fundamental neurological needs of security, a sense of belonging and fairness are more important than ever during crisis periods. We need clear rules to which we can orientate ourselves: This brings us the security which we are seeking. Even though we are currently working from our home offices, we also want to not lose the feeling of being part of a team and we need clear, transparent argumentation during decision-making processes in order to perceive that they are fair. This all is nothing new and we also know from neurology that they only receive a higher level of importance because we cannot so easily compensate for deficiencies in leadership through other dimensions.


If the economic framework conditions have given us an opportunity, then there also exists a path for successfully guiding our organisations through the crisis. In addition to having satisfactory technology, understanding transparent decision-making processes, clear target goals, support via peer-to-peer networks and leadership with a role model effect are the essential criteria for success for “brain-friendly” crisis management. If we focus on these fundamental elements, then we will emerge intelligently from the crisis.

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