C is for Certainty – How to Increase Employee Engagement with SCARF

by Ayla Lewis

(Note: this post is part 3 of 7 in the SCARF Series.)

Certainty is about being able to predict what is going to happen next. Our brains are constantly trying to predict the future–even a small amount of uncertainty about the future can generate an ‘error message’ in the mind. Uncertainty and an inability to predict what will happen next requires the brain to use more resources to process experiences in the moment. Alternatively, when you meet expectations and provide certainty it activates a reward response and increases dopamine levels in the brain.

Dr. David Rock says  – When we provide really clear expectations about what is going to happen it provides far more certainty; many managers and leaders forget this. In a merger situation, for example, when there is a lot uncertainty about what role people are going to have or even if they’ll have a job, just by giving people a date when you will have more information reduces uncertainty. Again you are moving people toward that reward state.

At Happy Brain Science we use a process called Appreciative Inquiry to ask ourselves, and clients we work with, “what is going well with this project?” and while we are gathering that information about what is going well, we experience an increase in our certainty about the progress and status of the project. We then use that boost in engagement to solve problems and maximize our success.

Below are three of Happy Brain Science’s Suggestions for increasing Certainty in the day-to-day at work:

  1. Ask Questions and Communicate – Communicate frequently and energetically–if you aren’t sure about a particular issue, simply ask! MIT Human Dynamics Lab’s research shows that the best teams communicate frequently. Communicating frequently can help to identify and clarify uncertainties at work.
  2. Identify the Next Step – When facing difficult or unfamiliar challenges, get clear about the next step you need to take toward that goal. Especially when you are challenged by new or difficult goals, a lack of clarity on the next step can lead to stagnation.
  3. Self-Review – Write out your own review, and do the most thorough and accurate job possible. This helps create certainty as you head into your development or performance review and can also help to mediate threats to status.

This week increase engagement in your workplace by providing certainty in a situation or decision that is unclear. How can you use one of the strategies above to increase certainty? Do you notice engagement increasing as certainty is provided?

Let us know in the comments below, on Facebook or Twitter, or by emailing me at Ayla@HappyBrainScience.com

With certainty that you can use these strategies to boost certainty!

– Ayla

Resources for the SCARF series: