Status is about how important we feel relative to others. We feel threatened when we realise we might compare unfavourably to someone else.

The Science Behind This… 

Studies done to measure the effect of status on how long people live have shown that high status correlates with good health and a long life.

If our importance relative to others is threatened, our brains engage the ‘threat’ response because we are biologically programmed to protect our status.

Feelings of low status cause cortisol levels to rise to similar levels as when we are sleep deprived or experience chronic anxiety.

How can I ensure I don’t threaten someone’s status? 

In our workplaces, we threaten someone’s status every time we do performance reviews and give feedback. People can feel defensive because they feel the person who is giving advice or feedback is claiming superiority.

We can increase status by doing any of these simple things:

1. Genuinely telling someone they are doing a good job (this lights up the same reward regions in the brain as when we experience a financial windfall!)

2. Providing people with the opportunities to master new skills or learn something new

3. Allow people to give feedback on their own performance

4. Turn feedback into ‘feedforward’ – identify what you want to change, then ask others

what suggestions they have that will help you achieve the change.