The brain is a prediction machine, continually mapping past experience to present and future. And so certainty – the ability to predict the future – is a key driver for the brain. And when we experience ambiguity (of any kind), it generates a threat response.
The need for certainty is easily forgotten in the workplace. For example, we might casually ask to see someone in our office for some innocuous discussion. But without setting clear expectations with that person, we’ve reduced their certainty and left them in a threat state. Until we have that meeting, we can expect their productivity and effectiveness to be impaired.
A key part of any leader’s role is the continual management of change, large and small. In such times of change, make certainty a central theme in your leadership style – to move people towards a reward state.