Humans often feel threatened in projects when being assigned new work or asked about things not going so well.

This correlates well with periods of project stress, anxiety, change, risk and unknown (due to the constraints of time, money and subtle increases in scope).

Everyone (Managers and Non-Managers) can get more skilled in the identification of key things that make a person feel threatened. Once a person feels threatened, then so much more effort, time, money, etc. is required ..... so stay ahead of the curve.

Generally, people under threat either:
1) put up their defenses
2) attack or withdraw

So lets use a simple tool that has become common in so many fields, called:

If you are working with someone or see someone start to feel threatened, then go through the SCARF Model and ask your self:

  • S - Status (what are the roles, are you coming in as a superior, are you showing you are above them and they are small, not able to handle it or are they feeling that they are being treated like a child, does the role have clarity)
  • C - Certainty (how accurate is the information/message, is there chance it is not true or misinformed, how sure are you, what are influencers on this)
  • A - Autonomy (does the person feel they have a say, any choice in the matter, are they simply being dictated what to do)
  • R - Relatedness (are there other people related to this, is there a team that can be there to support or help and be safe with, how are others involved)
  • F - Fairness (does the person feel it is fair.... this is interesting since it does not really matter if it is logical fairness or perceived fairness, in the end.... how they feel is their reality and they will act on their reality)

A few links that further elaborate on this tool are below:

Also a two minute video below with one of the founders of the model: