Employees have been anxiously holding their breaths amid economic turmoil, rampant layoffs, and fears over their job security. A cryptic Slack message, last-minute meeting invite, or an odd look from a coworker can make us fear the worst.
Uncertainty at work can generate stress, anxiety, and cognitive distortions, and can even exacerbate existing mental health conditions. These manifestations of uncertainty can harm employees’ sense of well-being at work, not to mention their productivity.
“The human brain is essentially allergic to uncertainty,” Dr. Julia DiGangi, a neuropsychologist and author of the new book Energy Rising, tells Fortune. “When it comes to the human brain, feelings of confusion are almost intolerable.”
At the very least, the rumination caused by uncertainty takes up mental space in the brain.
“In the absence of clear data, my brain all the time will close the pattern in favor of a suspicious narrative, a rejecting narrative, or a fearful narrative,” DiGangi says. “Because if I start to get vigilant, if I start to get suspicious, if I start to get on guard, if I start to get defensive, then I might be miserable, but at least I’ll be alive.”
This thinking only harms us in the long term, DiGangi says.