Work pressure is an unavoidable part of any workplace. While it may not feel good, I’ve found it is a key part of getting results and motivating team members.
When work pressure is too great, performance will suffer. But when the amount of pressure is just right, you and your team can achieve excellent results.
Balancing Work Pressure and Stress
Work-related stress is unhealthy when team members needs to endure it for long periods. However, there are different types of stress.
The normal type of stress that everyone thinks about is the negative “Distress”, which keeps people awake at night, anxious, working long hours and thinking about work long after the day has ended.
The second type of stress is called “Eustress”, which can have a positive impact on performance. When it comes to Eustress, people generally believe that the work pressure they are experiencing is reasonable and within their coping limits.
For more about Eustress vs. Distress, read this post: Eustress vs. Distress.
When you have too little work pressure, you’re likely to have boredom, apathy and laziness which results in poor performance. Too much work pressure will see your team anxious, lacking in confidence and fatigued as they struggle to get the job done.
How You Can Use Work Pressure to Your Advantage
Although too much work pressure can result in stress and fatigue, leaders need to be able to use pressure to their advantage.
I’ve worked in environments where there is little to no pressure on teams. These teams suffered from poor performance due to laziness and apathy. In addition, many team members had an attitude of entitlement where they felt they should be rewarded for putting in little effort.
Let’s look at some of the ways that you can manage the work pressure on your team, to achieve the best performance.
1. Start Holding People Accountable
Yes, it’s that word again… accountability. When team members perform poorly and there are no consequences, poor performance becomes normal.
If instead, leaders and managers are taking note of poor performance, giving team members feedback, enforcing consequences for bad behaviour and rewarding good performance, you’ll start to see behaviours change.
If you get the balance right, you’ll create just enough pressure that team members feel that they need to perform to a certain standard to avoid consequences and achieve rewards.
2. Focus On Work That Other People Care About
Another key part of improving the performance through managing work pressure is to align the work of your team with your stakeholders’ goals.
You want your team to be working on things that your own boss cares about, as well as other people in your organisation.
When you are the only person putting pressure on your team, eventually team members may question whether the pressure is real. They may believe that you’re the only one who cares about the work.
Be sure to communicate deadlines to your team, as well as your interested stakeholders. This will increase the visibility of the work and improve the motivation to achieve it.
3. Support Your Team to Ensure They Aren’t Alone
When work pressure comes from many places, stress increases. If your boss, yourself and others are all demanding results at once, the pressure can become too much.
There are several things that leaders need to do to ensure that work pressure remains controlled:
- Manage expectations: Leaders who fail to manage the expectations of others with regard to timelines or available resources will see the work pressure mount to unhealthy levels.
- Ensure appropriate resourcing: There is no sense squeezing the last drop of work out of a team until they break. This is unsustainable and will result in people leaving your team. The resulting work from having to rehire new people will leave you in a worse position!
- Push back on people: Sometimes people will make unreasonable demands on your team. It’s times like these where you will need to say “No”. If you build credibility and rapport in your organisation, this will become easier to do over time.
For more guidance on the building relationships, read this post: Why Formal Authority Won’t Solve Your Leadership Problems.
4. Set Achievable, Short to Medium Term Goals
When people have challenging goals that they think they can achieve, they feel motivated.
Unreasonable deadlines and targets have the opposite effect. This is more likely to push your team into Distress, rather than Eustress.
Duration is also a big factor. If your team needs to work really hard for a week to get something done, this can be motivational because they can see the “light at the end of the tunnel”.
But when you constantly push your team hard for long periods, you’re more likely to see burnout and a decrease in performance as your team members fall into Distress.
Use work pressure to your advantage. You mustn’t let it get out of control. However, if you are able to maintain pressure at reasonable levels in relatively short bursts, you’ll see performance improve.
What are your thoughts on managing work pressure in your team? Tell your stories in the comments below!
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