The human brain is a funny thing. Despite its vast intricacies, processing power and complex structure, its default setting is no better than a reptile’s.

Sure, most reptiles know how to sun themselves on the right rock and are pretty good at surviving in harsh climates, but is that who you want working for you? We didn’t think so.

We all possess a “reptilian” brain whose main job is to keep us alive. This is a good thing. The problem is, without the proper information that allows our “thinking” brain to override our instincts, the reptilian brain is wired to see danger everywhere. The building’s on fire? Danger! Your team has a new structure? Danger!

Danger, Danger Everywhere

You can bet that in this climate, the odds are against you if you’re implementing any day-to-day changes or large-scale transformation initiatives. Just when you need your employees to be on their game, thinking differently and fully engaged. they’re falling apart, sensing danger and disrupting the very change you’re trying to implement.

That’s because, to them (and their reptilian brains) even the most mundane of initiative can seem dangerous:

  • A new organization chart
  • New people to work with and new styles of management
  • New responsibilities or expanded responsibilities
  • Departure of colleagues
  • New processes and routines
  • New physical workspaces
  • New problems to solve
  • More variables and a fluid environment

Saying Goodbye to the Reptiles

When the reptilian brain reacts quickly and instinctually, it pumps out powerful survival brain chemicals such as cortisol and norepinephrine to equip us to run, fight or hide.

The problem is, day to day, in the face of ongoing, perceived danger, the brain keeps producing those chemicals, month after month, which is extremely taxing. Remaining in that state for prolonged periods can lead to burnout, mental fatigue, poor health, and ruined personal relationships.

But it doesn’t have to be this way, for you, your organization, or your team. Creating a NeuroSafe environment will help move employees from their reptilian brains to their more developed, nuanced brains. Regular, honest communication that validates their fears and addresses their concerns is a good starting point to creating a workplace where everyone can respond and perform thoughtfully, like evolved humans, not like reptiles.


Noesis delivers neuroleadership consulting and training to organizations handling major change and transformation initiatives. We help our Fortune 500 clients permanently and scientifically improve leadership.