Amygdala Hijack

The Problem

Beth has been waiting for a report from Brian. They are in the same building, but sat in different offices.

Brian has been busy with other projects. He has produced the report on time but has not had time to check it. As a result there are some errors.

Beth is unaware that Brian has been under pressure and doesn't know that he worked extra hours to finish the report. She reads the report and sighs. There appear to be many mistakes. How could he send such rubbish!? Beth now has to go through it in detail before she can send it on to the director, who wanted it today. Grrrr..!

Emotional Response

Beth's first response is an emotional one. The amygdala is triggered, the pre-frontal cortex shuts down. This is bad news as that's the bit of the brain she needs right now to help her cope with this potentially difficult situation.

In frustration, Beth pings an email to Brian complaining about the errors and inconsistencies. She wants the original figures so she can correct the report.

Amygdala Hijack
Amygdala Hijack

Emotional Response

Brian opens Beth's email. Grrr..! Doesn't she know he worked until 11pm yesterday finishing the report!? Some thanks would be nice and an offer to talk it through so he can explain the figures.

Brian's boss sees that he is upset. Brian, who is still feeling the effects of Amygdala hijack, expresses his frustration. It can take anything up to 20 minutes for the brain to recover its equilibrium. Brian tells his boss he is fed up with the way Beth communicates. Now another member of staff is involved, plus the whole team in the office have overheard the conversation and there is an air of tension in the room.

The team rush to sort out the problem. They discover an error has indeed been made. Brian tears a strip off his team, again without thinking clearly - his amygdala hijack has now been fuelled by two further encounters.

Anxiety about the errors, and the way it has been handled, in turn triggers amygdala hijack for some of the team and they sit distractedly looking at the figures before beginning to correct them.

Brian's boss comes to see Beth. Thirty minutes later, she is apologising and looking for a way to resolve the situation. Beth spends a further 45 minutes sorting out her relationship problem with Brian and then going through the report and discussing it with him.

Amygdala Hijack

The Cost

Beth’s hasty email has cost the company a minimum of two hours in unproductive time. No one involved in the process has been operating at full mental capacity due to the effects of amygdala hijack. Beth has damaged her reputation with Brian’s boss and Brian has to make amends to his team for expressing his frustration while the logical, reasoned part of his brain was switched off.

How Oak Growth can help

Workshops that help staff understand behaviours, how our emotions operate, how to deal with emotional responses and key questions to ask yourself before you interact with others enables everyone understand how they affect one another in the work place and interact more productively.

Profiling staff enables them to have a real insight into their own, and other's communication and behavioural styles and their preferred working patterns, which further assists actively choosing performance enhancing behaviours for themselves and to help others.

Individual coaching and mentoring can provide assistance for those dealing with particular issues or to overcome barriers that they are experiencing in their own personal growth or with their teams.

Still wondering what the Amygdala is?

Find out here