emotional response

What type of manager are you?

The current COVID-19 pandemic could be said to be bringing out the very best and the very worst in people as we experience the full gamut of emotions – fear, vulnerability, grief, frustration to name but a few! Everyone has heard of the fear or flight response in humans but there are actually six main responses to threat which have kept us safe as we evolved over the millennia. 

For leaders of a small business, recognising the emotions we are feeling at this time of high stress can be the thing which makes or breaks us. You would be forgiven for thinking that we are all living in bizarre fictional plot created by a twisted Hollywood writer, so we have put together our guide to how, as business leaders we can anticipate, interpret and act on the responses to threat. We also highlight the strengths that each character type can bring to your business to help you harness that energy positively. 

Two children racing on go karts


We’ve all met those people who refuse to wait in queues, shout at the customer services advisor and cut in front of you in traffic. They may be irritating but in reality, they are just demonstrating their need to assert when they face a situation which they can’t control. On the plus side they can be the very person you want with you at a tricky time – they are courageous, determined to win and happy to take the lead. Give them the lead on key project work and they will forge ahead, developing ideas and making things happen while others falter. 



When faced with challenges, these people run for the hills. They avoid conflict, are poor negotiators and are needy employees. However, they do look to be managed and are happy to be led by other stronger members of the team – keep them busy and utilise their risk avoidance skills to help in planning for the future. 

woman looking through window blinds


These characters opt for standing very still and hoping that they don’t get noticed, often pretending that the crisis is not happening. Their compliance can be useful and their natural reflective tendancies can provide a wider perspective when some become a victim to a narrowing viewpoint. 

cartoon of a main holding birds flying through the air


Employees exhibiting these characteristics will go along with the flow and hate to upset anyone. They can be vulnerable to fake news as they absorb every piece of news related to the crisis. Make sure that they develop a filter on advice and utilise their relaxed approach to bring calm to the team. 

woman crossing her fingers


We’ve all experienced those awkward moments when a colleague makes light of a terrible situation through inappropriate jokes or flippant comments, which make others wince. Their key strength is their sunny nature and upbeat optimism which can be harnessed to bring cheer to the team.

graphic of a woman showing workflow


These employees are prepared for anything, equipped with the latest gadgets to tackle any issue. Resourceful and normally highly trained, these are the members of the team that you want to get on board with any planning and especially execution to get your business through the crisis. 

Essentially, whatever animated character your team members exemplify, your role as manager is to bring together that mix to create the strongest collective. Each employee will come to the fore at different times and on the flip side, they will all experience down times where their true personality shines through. Communication is essential to this management process to ensure that any tricky situations are avoided or at worst managed rather than the team being lurching from one disaster to another. 

Take time to look at your team and identify their strengths and weaknesses and consider how their individual skills and characters can be utilised. Recognise the role of fear in crisis situations and accept that it at different points, it can influence our behaviour. Have consideration for others and be empathetic to their emotions. Fear can be a motivating factor and without it we would never have progressed as a race – and movie plots would be much duller!