The Way You Respond to Stress Might Be Ruining Your Team

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Kayla Heisler1.16k

A recent study conducted by VitalSmarts revealed that when under stress, a manager can make or break their team's chance of success. If you’re a manager who becomes visibly angry or withdraws when the pressure’s on, your team (and thus your business) is likely to suffer greatly. The researchers found that 62 percent of employees were more likely to consider leaving their jobs when they were managed by hot-tempered managers than those managed by someone who kept their cool. Working for an easily-angered manager also meant employees were 56 percent more likely to opt out of participating, 49 percent less likely to put in extra  effort, and 47 percent more likely to become frustrated themselves.

How common are managers who combust under pressure instead of putting on a game face? According to the survey, 1 in 3 managers became hotheads under high-pressure situations. Faced with stressful situations, 53 percent were described as being more controlling than open-minded, 37 percent were described as using avoidance and sidestepping over directness, and 45 percent were described as behaving emotionally rather than calmly.

On the flip side, managers who communicate with their teams in an open, respectful manner—even during stressful situations—enjoyed major benefits from their team members. Employees who worked for managers who practice good communication met quality standards 56 percent more often, acted in ways that benefited customers 56 percent more often, improved workplace safety 47 percent more often, and met deadlines 47 percent more often than those working for hot-headed managers.

According to the study, neither age nor gender predicted a manager’s ability to effectively handle high-stakes situations under pressure. If you’re questioning how your employees interpret your ability to handle stress or wonder how you can better communicate to your team while under stress, there are a few tricks you can implement: 

Be Proactive

When you know a stressful time is on the horizon, alert your team so that they can prepare. Having all team members on the same page will allow everyone to find solutions to problems before they occur to make the work environment less stressful for everyone.


Was there a time when you yelled at your team instead of talking to them calmly? Do you leave team members in the dark until the last minute? Reflect on how you’ve handled stress in the past, so you can make better decisions in the future. If you feel yourself getting caught up in a moment, take a second to imagine how you would feel if your boss were speaking to you the way you’re speaking to your team, then decide if you should adjust your behavior.

Ask for Outside Perspectives

Feeling like the success or failure of your company is up to you alone is daunting, and that can contribute to becoming overly stressed out and reacting negatively.  Listening to team members about their perspectives can help you keep in mind that everyone is impacted by what’s happening in the company. Hearing what other people think can also help you keep facts in mind that will help you come to solutions more easily than you would taking on all of the mental strain yourself.

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Kayla Heisler is an essayist and Pushcart Prize-nominated poet. She is a contributing writer for Color My Bubble. Her work appears in New York's Best Emerging Poets anthology.