• Leila Ainge

The New Normal

The comfort zone is a behavioural state within which a person operates in an anxiety-neutral condition, using a limited set of behaviours to deliver a steady level of performance, usually without a sense of risk

Alasdair White’s definition in the paper ‘From Comfort Zone to Performance Management’

January 2009

Comfort Zones

The general concept is that there are three zones, the comfort zone, an optimum performance zone, and finally a danger zone- where stress and anxiety impedes performance.

We imagine ourselves moving between the zones as we are stretched in our work and private lives, being catapulted from a comfort zone to the danger zone is worrying enough, but rarely would we expect this to be happening to so many people at the same time.


Team theory is a useful way to frame what happens when a team moves from the comfort to danger zone quickly, White references Tuckmans ‘Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing’ team model.

  • FORMING: At first unable to manage or cope, lacks the ‘how to’ knowledge

  • STORMING: High conflict, defensiveness, lacks the ‘skills’

  • NORMING: New ways of working emerge, low confidence

  • PERFORMING: Acts as a team and delivers

The New Normal I’m hearing the phrase ‘The new normal’ in relation to COVID-19 and the impact it is having on our way of life, change is happening, it’s causing conflict, there are new rules but we are far from comfortable in the ‘New Normal’ because our behavioural state is not anxiety-neutral

All of this talk about normal assumes that the ‘Old Normal’ was good, and of course we live in a less than perfect world of inequality and unconscious bias.

I’d argue that the ‘New Normal’ isn’t an end state, its a phase we will work through, we are predisposed as humans to normalise when we are threatened or disturbed, we are also creative and innovative when we are safely challenged and performing.

Pay attention to how you and your team are developing and evolving through this period,

There is no such thing as normal.

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