When the economy goes bad, we all want to blame somebody else, from politicians to banks to shape-shifting alien reptiles. And while much of that finger pointing may be justified (except for the reptiles thing), the problem comes down to how all of us are wired. Remember, what we all think of as a "normal" human life -- education, career, finances -- is in fact a very recent invention.
And when we try to wrap our hunter-gatherer brains around concepts like student loan interest rates and year-end bonuses, it starts misfiring in all sorts of ridiculous ways ...
5Fear of a Bad Economy Makes Us Worse Employees
Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images
We've spent a lot of time as a species evolving to respond to bear attacks. Our fight-or-flight response gives us a burst of energy that we use to either scamper away at Mach 30 or punch that bear right in its stupid face. But times have changed: These days, most of us are in less danger of a bear attack than we are of getting laid off, so what physiological response have we evolved for that? Not a great one: Basically, we just get shitty at everything.
"I could've sworn I knew how to do this yesterday."
While our reaction to physical danger is to hulk out and kick-punch our problems away, our reaction to constant, looming money danger is to be less sure of ourselves, less aggressive, and less good at everything we do. We basically shut down, which isn't just bad for ourselves, it's bad for everyone: A tired, dejected workforce isn't exactly the shot in the arm an ailing economy needs. Right now, about half of all workers are too stressed at work to do a good job, and American businesses are losing $300 billion every year to this kind of self-conscious worrywart bullshit.
You have to be pretty sad to mope through the entire GDP of Norway.
But it's not just the economy: Whenever the tax season rolls around, or literally anything bad to do with money happens at all, the stress kills our productivity. It's a system that is really good at punishing failure, but, as a result, really bad at encouraging you to try something new (like, say, leaving your job to go back to college or starting your own business). We won't branch out and take risks until "the economy" improves, but "the economy" doesn't improve until people branch out and take risks.
Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images
Both sides represent a swift kick in the financial ass.
In other words, as a species, we just can't take the pressure of this system we ourselves designed (so our economy is basically a really passive-aggressive Skynet). But regardless of how the economy goes ...