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Influence psychological safety at work using neuroscience (SCARF Part 1)

The SCARF model is a highly helpful "tool" for figuring out which behaviors will cause certain emotions and behaviors in your staff.

SCARF is a model.

David Rock developed the SCARF, a neuroscience-based model that takes into account five aspects of social interaction: status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness, and fairness.

The foundation of the SCARF model is that the way the human brain functions causes us to move away from problems and toward rewards.

As a leader, you may impact the appropriate emotions, which in turn drive positive conduct, by having a thorough awareness of each domain of human social experience.


Status is a reference to our relative significance. In essence, it's a perception of our own value and how we stack up against others.

When someone feels superior to someone else, their feeling of status increases.

Similar to this, we see our status as being threatened when we receive unsolicited criticism or advice.

Leaders should get in the habit of complimenting teammates when they succeed, especially when doing so in front of others, to guarantee that our team has a positive sense of status. Observing their progress is another action you can take to raise the status award.


Certainty is precisely what it sounds like—a feeling of confidence in what the future has in store for us.

Setting clear expectations, creating clear plans and goals, being honest with team members, and developing well-organized project timelines are all things that leaders should do to boost the reward state when it comes to certainty.

Avoid lying, being ambiguous or unexpected, and lacking transparency.


Being autonomous means feeling as though you have options and can influence what happens. According to Rock, a lack of autonomy is a direct cause of stress and ineffectiveness. You can provide your team members autonomy without allowing them to assume control of the project's management by allowing them to express their opinions, make their own schedules when practical, arrange their workspace, and designate their own workflow. Micromanaging your team is the main thing to avoid if you don't want to raise the sensation of threat from uncertainty.


Regarding others, one can either view them as friends or as strangers, depending on their relatedness.

It also has to do with the groups that individuals frequently form and whether or not they are members of those organizations.

You as a leader can promote social relationships to ensure that your staff have a sense of relatedness. Small mentoring groups, small working teams, and team-building exercises can help you achieve this.


Fairness is rather self-explanatory; it refers to whether or not one believes the working environment is equitable.

A leader should enforce the same standards for everyone to promote fairness and prevent sentiments of threat. You should set up clear expectations and make sure they are reasonable in light of the work they are capable of.

To ensure the reward state and prevent the threat state, a leader will establish an emotionally secure working environment in these five human dimensions, which can enhance output, productivity, decision-making, and communication.

As we've already seen, the behaviors of the leader can have a big impact on how an employee feels, which in turn affects how they act.

You can encourage a sense of safety among your team members and increase their level of productivity by implementing and avoiding some of the behaviors we discussed in relation to each area.

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