No matter our technological advances, there always seems to be more to do than time and resources allow. Add a serve of bushfires and a sprinkling of pandemic uncertainty, then we have the ideal recipe for a stress pancake. And no amount of maple syrup is going to sweeten that dish!

Individuals and teams are under the pump. Sometimes this manifests as aggressive behaviour like slamming doors, hallway stomping, and raised voices. Sometimes it looks like bunnies in the headlights or hiding turtles. It can feel like we’ve got a whole zoo of craziness on our hands!

What can we do as leaders to handle this messy menagerie?

Know the patterns, manage the people.

When you know what triggers people into negative behaviours, then it’s easier to defuse them.

Core triggers centre around fear of loss.

We fear losing:

  • Power and autonomy. All of us like to feel in control of our own destiny. When we make decisions and don’t consult, we can trigger the survival beasts within.
  • Position. Status is important to all of us. It’s how we make sense of our part in the business. It’s how we focus our energy to earn more respect. If we think we’ve lost status, or not been respected for our expertise, this can unleash rabid animals.
  • Place. Belonging helps us feel safe. If we feel excluded we can become sulky and sensitive puppies.
  • Performance. All of us want to feel like we are achieving and progressing in our work. If we get overloaded, it drives us into monkey hyperdrive.

As leaders, we need to help people feel they are in control of what happens to them by being inclusive and consultative. We need to offer recognition of people’s skills and accomplishments. We need to have a structured process of interactions that builds a sense of community. We need to monitor workloads and make sure we are doing the work that matters at a rate and volume that stretches but does not snap capacity.

What do you need to adjust to minimise triggers?


Related Articles:

Behaviour problems in the workplace – what’s really the cause

How to lead in a low trust environment

How to overcome silos and turf wars



  • Zoë Routh

    Australia's Leadership Expert, Author of Book of the Year "People Stuff" l Speaker l Mentor l Strategist

    Zoë Routh is one of Australia’s leading experts on people stuff - the stuff that gets in our way of producing results, and the stuff that lights us up. She works with the growers, makers, builders to make people stuff fun and practical.

    Zoë is the author of four books: Composure - How centered leaders make the biggest impact,  Moments - Leadership when it matters most, Loyalty - Stop unwanted staff turnover, boost engagement, and build lifelong advocates, and People Stuff - Beyond Personalities: An advanced handbook for leadership. People Stuff was awarded Book of the Year 2020 by the Smart WFM Australian Business Book Awards.

    Zoë is also the producer of The Zoë Routh Leadership Podcast.