Thursday 11 June 2020


Posted by
James Dalton

Much has been written about a “New Normal”. And we’re certainly experiencing profound change from what’s gone before, in the workplace and life in general. But the ‘Normal’, if it exists, is intensely personal and unique to every individual. We build an environment around us, to make us feel safe and happy. We surround ourselves with people who are ‘like us’ – familiar personalities with similar energies. We don’t like anything that is ‘outside’ of that safe bubble that we create for ourselves. We see anything that ‘disrupts’ that as a threat to our own specially-created world and inner wellbeing.

If we add to this uncertainty anything that limits our ability to predict the future – or anything that imposes itself upon our self-created future story – then we enter a state of real anxiety and worry, reacting instinctively to reduce that threat (or else crumble under the pressure of the unknown).


So, in answer to the question, the new normal – or abnormal – is self-created by every single one of us. It’s different for each person and built on how our ‘present’ and ‘future’ views the world. That view is influenced by family, friends, colleagues, the media (news coverage for example), social media and what we read.

Surviving any change to ‘the Norm’ is determinant on how resilient an individual is, their inner state before the current crisis began, their coping mechanisms and their inner strength. So Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs certainly comes to bear right now.

At the base of the model is our fundamental need for Physiological health; and this is threatened by a virulent global pandemic for which there is no vaccine at the moment.

Next up is our Safety. Do we feel safe right now? Maybe not. That’s why visible leadership and meaningful engagement is so important in the workplace, to gain trust and give a sense of psychological safety – and why many organisations need to seriously consider Leadership Development to unlock these skills amongst their C-Suite and senior managers.

And then we have our Social environment. If we are locked down then we are removed from our social circle and family, and can feel very alone, or with a limited close circle that we live with.

The penultimate need is Ego/Self and our requirement for self-esteem, control and power. This has been removed from so many people right now, and many feel that their lives have stalled.

And finally, we have Self-actualisation – the need for creativity and growth. Again, many people have lost this and feel that their lives are not in their control.

Each of Maslow’s psychological needs has elements removed right now. So is it any wonder that people feel threatened and detached from the world and their work?

For me, the key is helping people understand this – why do they feel the way they feel? What can they do to make themselves ‘feel better’ and ‘safer’? And how can we achieve that in the workplace, in how people engage with their colleagues and ‘employer’ – in how they ultimately perform? It’s at the heart of managing change; and underpins our learning experiences such as Me & My Team Working Together; Managing, Leading & Landing Change; Stakeholder Management and Talent Development.


‘Living with Uncertainty’ could be defined as the new ‘normal’ (or ‘abnormal’). It’s how we create our inner strength and resilience, how we pick ourselves up from where we find ourselves right now – and how we move forward, individually and together.

James Dalton.
Head of Learning & Engagement, PeopleStory.



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