Stress and Pressure in the Workplace
Feeling the Pressure? Try This Simple Strategy to Overcome Your Nerves
On Sunday 11th July 2021, for the first time in over 50 years, England made an appearance in the final of the Euros. Whilst the nation had high hopes that football was ‘coming home’ this year, the game went to penalties and Italy claimed victory. After the game, Rashford, Sancho and Saka received shocking amounts of criticism for not scoring their penalties, raising a few questions about how much pressure they are truly put under and the impact this can have.
Stress and pressure are extremely common issues in the workplace, with a staggering 79% of employees commonly experiencing work-related stress - not all as stressful as a final penalty shootout in a major league competition!
What Do ‘Stress’ and ‘Pressure’ Mean?
Whilst we all have individual interpretations of what ‘stress’ and ‘pressure’ mean, by definition:
- Pressure is “the use of persuasion or intimidation to make someone do something”
- Stress is “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances”
Maintaining an Optimal Level of Pressure
Too much stress or pressure can have an extremely detrimental impact on staff, in terms of physical health, mental health, and performance, potentially causing:
- Sleep disturbances
- Loss of concentration
- Lack of motivation
- Difficulty processing information
- Loss of memory
- Poor decision-making
- High absenteeism
- Low performance and productivity
While stress is something that we all experience at some point in our lives, some people struggle with it more than others, which can lead to a decline in mental health and wellbeing. (If you’d like to be able to better spot the warning signs of deteriorating mental health in your colleagues or employees, our Mental Health First Aid course would be perfect for you. To find out more about what this course entails, please click here to download our brochure.)
On the contrary, too little pressure can also have negative consequences. If there is too little pressure on employees, they are more likely to procrastinate, get distracted, or struggle to concentrate on their work.
The key to optimising your staff’s performance without overworking them is maintaining a healthy level of pressure that encourages employees to focus and do their best work, but doesn’t cause them to burn out.
Causes of Stress and Pressure in the Workplace
Stress and pressure in the workplace can arise for many reasons, including:
- An unmanageable workload
- Conflicting priorities
- Lack of support
- Conflict between team members
- Job uncertainty
There are also several common high-pressure workplace situations/scenarios that can increase staff stress, such as:
- Upcoming deadlines or targets
- Making sales calls about high-value projects
- Public speaking e.g. leading meetings, presentations
What Can You Learn About Managing Stress from the Trier Social Stress Test?
Whilst nerves and stress are extremely common, it’s crucial to be able to overcome and push past them, and not let your nerves get the better of you.
In the book ‘The Upside of Stress’, writer Kelly McGonigal explores a study by Clinical Psychological Science which reveals a surprisingly simple but effective strategy for managing stress by learning to stay in control of your mind and thoughts.
In the study, 73 adults underwent the Trier Social Stress Test. Purposely designed to cause stress, the test asked participants to deliver a 5 minute speech about their strengths and weaknesses. Half of the participants were given “anxiety preparation” where they were told about the advantages of the body’s natural stress response, they read summaries of 3 psychological studies that evaluated the benefit of stress, and they were told that they should perceive stress as excitement and “reinterpret their body signals during the upcoming public speaking task as beneficial”.
Before, during, and after the stress test, cardiovascular stress responses (blood pressure and heart rate) were measured in all participants. Participants who did not undergo “anxiety preparation” showed a greater cardiovascular stress response whereas those that had “anxiety preparation” felt more comfortable and delivered their speech much better. They were also perceived by the audience as being more comfortable and engaging. It was a simple strategy that delivered big results!
This study shows us that we can better manage our nerves by simply perceiving stress as excitement, enabling us to excel in even the most high-pressure situations. It's all in the mind.
Nerves in the Workplace
Whilst choosing to perceive stress as excitement is a great way of combating nervousness in the moment, there is no better way of overcoming nerves than simply avoiding them altogether by making sure you’re confident and prepared for any nerve-wrecking situation you’re faced with.
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Benjamin Franklin
As we mentioned earlier on in this article, one of the most common high-pressure workplace situations is making sales calls/attending sales meetings. Sales executives typically experience a lot of stress and nerves because they’re relied on to turn leads into sales and drive revenue for the organisation; the organisation’s success relies heavily on their performance.
While sales calls are often extremely stressful, it’s crucial that sales staff don’t show their nerves and anxiety to prospects. Coming across as knowledgeable and confident is a key driver of having a successful sales call. This confidence comes from making sure you’re prepared by ensuring that you have all of the knowledge needed to deliver an outstanding sales pitch and close the sale.
Being a successful sales executive demands many skills, abilities and competencies, including:
- Targeting specific market segments through effective product/service positioning
- Understanding and communicating products’/services’ features, advantages and benefits to prospective customers
- Understanding, pre-empting and overcoming customer objections
- Using LinkedIn as a lead generation tool to deliver pre-qualified leads
- Understanding sales targets and maximising ROI
If you or your staff could benefit from improving in any of the above areas, have you checked out our Sales Executive Apprenticeship?
Our sales apprenticeship covers the above topics and many more, developing sales people into confident and skilled commercial professionals, prepared to hit targets, drive performance and be true ambassadors for the business. Upon successful completion, learners also receive a 14-month ISM membership, giving them access to lots of online content and educational events to further support their long term professional development.
To find out more about how this programme can help you or your organisation turn nerves into success, you can click here to explore our Sales Executive Apprenticeship brochure, request a call with one of our training experts by clicking here, or call us on 01332 527 905.
We hope that today's article has helped you manage your stress better and overcome your nerves. Next time on the Daily Dot, we will be looking at how to say ‘no’ in the workplace to protect your time.
Until next time...