Panic buying, performance, control and introversion

Last updated Oct 4, 2021 | Improving your work performance

Panic buying, performance, control and introversion

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Intrigued by the “panic buying” of petrol I asked Google what drives it. After several nonsensical  search results I found some that made sense; so I’m not promising this the whole psychology behind panic buying, but what interested me. The sources are listed at the bottom of this article

What drives panic buying?

Dr Audrey Tang, a psychologist, and author of the new book The Leader’s Guide To Resilience says fear is the biggest reason for our panic buying.

 The brain – which is responsible for our survival – doesn’t like being placed ‘under threat’

Fear starts to make us more selfish and focus on removing the fear, rather than consider the consequences of our actions.

Tang’s statement that we are attempting to get control in an unpredictable environment made my mind drift to introversion, to several conversations linking control, introversion and social situations. But first, back to panic buying.

Ben Oppenheim, senior Director at San Francisco-based infectious disease research firm Metabiota “It’s probably true that panic buying is ultimately a psychological mechanism to deal with our fear and uncertainty; a way to assert some control over the situation by taking an action.”

Another factor driving the odd behaviour is the theory of social proof, seeing others doing it increases our desire not to ‘miss out’. Tang made an interesting comparison between fire alarms at work and social proof, how do most people react when the fire alarm goes off at work? They look around to see what everybody else is doing!

When we feel fear, all we want to do is to not feel that fear anymore. Whether it’s due to a real life danger or a psychological ‘threat’, the stress response can feel the same.

Introversion and panic buying

How is Introversion linked to panic buying? Being clear, its not (and I didn’t claim it was). However, the control over fear being causal to panic buying piqued my interest.

Introversion is not about fear of social situations (that’s shyness). However, many introverts feel better by introducing control elements over the social situations they feel uncomfortable in:

  • A key element in STOP (a tool used by many introverts I’ve worked with) is to get a position in a social situation. Having a role in the gathering allows introverts to feel more in control, it’s easier to join and leave conversations. This has helped many introverts not only survive, but thrive in conferences and other social gatherings. The role could be as small as doing some research, or as large as running the event.
  • Public speaking has been described to me by several introverts as control. When on stage, they have control of the social situation, explaining why many introverts don’t worry about public speaking.
  • Networking expert Will Kintish says a great tip for an introvert going to a networking event is to arrive early; they can see who arrives and choose who to talk to. That sounds like creating some control to me.

How do you use control to help you feel better?

Helping your introverts perform better

If you manage a team, you will have introverts in that team. Helping them have a feeling of control will help them perform more effectively.

  • In meetings: A clear agenda, which is followed, will improve the meeting for everybody, especially the introverts
  • Answering questions: It’s common that your introverts will use internal processing and are less comfortable being asked questions on the spot (specially in front of others). Saying in advance, or allowing time for an introvert to prepare their answer gives them some control.
  • Collaborative working: Introverts enjoy collaboration, they like being part of a cohesive group where they add value. In small groups they tend to be comfortable sharing their ideas. Larger groups where there are a couple of extroverts battling to take control (there’s that word again) of the session can prevent introverts performing as well.
  • Office noise: Can you provide quieter places in the office where people can work with less distraction?

Introverts are no more, or less, likely to panic (or panic buy) than anybody else. But just as control helps reduce panic buying, it can improve people’s performance. Put like that it’s obvious, so how can you put people in control?

Other sources of information on panic buying


Related content you may find useful:communication | Confidence | leadership | Managing introverts | Managing staff | Networking
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