Working in the pressure cooker
It’s been a week of hard deadlines. Half your team has been on holiday or off sick. You’ve taken up a new role in a completely new side of the business. And, to top it all off, it’s the time of month where people go crazy – billing time. That sums up my week, and probably a large proportion of yours too.
I had pressure to perform from my management, pressure to make an immediate impact in my new team, and ultimately pressure from the clients to know what I was talking about in order to provide them the best service possible. There was pressure, still, to perform the tasks from my previous role.
This got me thinking about pressure. How we react, and perform under intense pressure. Some people run and hide at the first sign of it, others will stick it out for a while and eventually crumble, while others still continue to work and push through to the end.
This is my completely scientific and methodical findings on pressure. (not really)
I am always amazed at how people work under pressure. In my mind there are two types of pressure; once-off, quick-developing situations (imagine services failing), and longer term sustained pressure (imagine too much work, too few people).
When the crap hits the fan, it’s always interesting to see who skulks into the corner, or who dives in to sort it out. I believe there are three types of people when it comes to this; The Vanisher, The Punisher, The Follower.
The Vanisher is nowhere to be found when the going gets tough in the once off pressure situations. When pressure mounts, and more intense pressure is mounting by the hour (or minute), the Vanisher is the one making excuses, dodging decisions, and making their way to the exit.
They fair a lot better under sustained pressure, as they can perform their tasks during ‘normal work hours’. They will deal with the workload they can, having an excuse to get out of the extra work. Finding new employees is not in their job description.
The Punisher is a resilient beast. One that has courage to get stuck in and put in the all-night stints to get shit sorted. As the Vanisher begins to fade into the background, so the Punisher begins to lead the resolution of a once-off situation.
The Follower has the same resilience as the Punisher. They are willing to put in the hard yards when trouble comes around. They may not be as gung-ho as the Punisher, or as skittish as the Vanisher, but the Follower adjusts their handling of pressure situations accordingly. Sometimes, when the Punisher is not around, the Follower will gladly take up the challenge to lead the resolution. I fall into this group
Going the distance
All three of the reaction types are capable of performing the work required, the difference is when a little thing called pressure enters the game. Which of these types of people go the distance?
The first to fall
The first to fall when there is sustained pressure is the Punisher. Why? Because they are like lions, completely awesome, but in short bursts of activity. They wear themselves out so quickly (from being awesome), that they are good for the real high pressure one-off situations.
The second to succumb
The second pin to drop is the Vanisher. Although the Vanisher will disappear when a once-off pressure situation develops, they can still perform under the longer term sustained pressure. However, this ongoing pressure eventually gets to them. They begin to think they shouldn’t have to have this constant pressure and that it’s unfair on them. They crumble, they complain, and they leave (again).
The third to (maybe) trip
The Follower understands their capability and how to pace themselves. They know when to fade into the background, and when to step up and when to put in the hard graft. The Follower can maintain the pressure in short bursts and for the long term. They relish the pressure, as they know it teaches them how to adapt, solve problems, gain vital experience.
Which one are you
There are benefits to each of these types of reactors. The world needs the Vanisher to be there for the day to day stuff. They’ll be sorting out issues, being innovative, and just as hard-working as the next guy. But only on their terms and within their job description.
The Punisher is needed as the go to person when tight deadlines need to be met, when intense situations arise, or simply to finish off something that needs to be done now.
Last, but not least, is the Follower. We are needed to be the bridge between the Vanisher and the Punisher, able to switch to high gear at any time.
Which type are you?
[Featured image: Daniel Go]