Handling pressure

by Ted Pollock, contributing editor

It’s a part of life, but no one relishes it: pressure, the feeling that something is snapping at your heels and won’t go away, no matter what you do. How to handle it?

Regardless of the nature of the pressure confronting you, a big part of its threat is the vague feeling you have of being overwhelmed. And the very fact that the feeling is somewhat vague makes it even scarier.

But if you define the pressure, you will take a giant step toward reducing it.

One effective way to do this is to draw up a list of what you must do, when you must finish it, and the amount of time you can afford to spend on each item.

Getting this information down on paper can be helpful, because when you have a schedule to consult, you can keep track of how well you are doing and what remains to be done. By putting the pressure you feel into words, you take away a lot of its terror. It is no longer a “pressure,” but simply another job that has to be done.

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    Handling Pressure

    HANDLING PRESSURE

    It’s nothing new to hear that pressure is an integral part of your workday. It comes with the territory.

    There’s a very good reason for this. By the very nature of a manager’s work-decisions and people to be dealt with, elusive factors to be identified-he is inevitably fated to some frustrations and setbacks. There never were (nor never will be) people in positions of responsibility who bat a thousand.

    Let’s examine some common on-the-job situations that tend to generate tensions and see what can be done to reduce or eliminate them. Internal competition: Does it disturb you when you learn that someone else has been tapped for a promotion, or that the other person’s ideas have been adopted instead of your own? Don’t let it.

    Rather, recognize that nobody can always be on top. Healthy competition within an organization is desirable; it keeps everyone on his toes, doing his best. But to expect yourself to win all the promotions, out-think everybody else and out-produce everyone all the time is not only unrealistic, it is unhealthy. As long as you are doing the very best you can (and winning your share of the laurels), internal competition should not prove a source of tension.

    Time pressures: One of the most serious frustrations plaguing managers is finding the time to do all the things they are supposed to do. Unless the individual finds a satisfactory solution to this problem, he will feel harassed, overburdened and confused.

    Organization comes to the rescue. Long-range planning sets up a program of accomplishment for a 30-day or even a 60-day period; short-range planning sets up a weekly schedule. Night-before planning pinpoints specific tasks to be done-or started-on the following day.

    Some concrete suggestions:

    • Dispose of things that can be handled promptly. The few projects that remain will be easier to cope with.
    • Communicate with others involved in the project. A little time invested in explaining something thoroughly can prevent misunderstandings.
    • Avoid further frustration. Don’t bang your head against a brick wall. If a problem has you stymied, put it aside and come back to it when your mood and mind have improved.
    • Refuse certain demands on your time. It’s flattering to be asked to serve on a committee or address a group, but these invitations are also cruel demands on your time and energy-neither of which is limitless.
    • Learn from criticism. Some people are thin-skinned and overly sensitive. Others are the victims of tactless, heavy-handed criticism from superiors. Whatever the reason, the individual who allows criticism to get under his skin is headed for a fall. He feels rebuffed and unappreciated, sulks, takes it out on his family and subordinates, and soon finds himself as ineffective on the job as off. Assuming that the criticism was deserved (and properly given), welcome it, be grateful for it and determine to act on it. Remember that it is a valuable form of communication, a key to better performance. Accepted in this spirit, criticism will not depress or discourage, nor will it cause undue tension.

    CONTROLLING YOUR ANGER

    There are lots of good reasons to blow your stack: silly errors, misunderstandings, crossed signals, plain stupidity. But there are even better reasons to keep your anger under control. For one thing, when you are angry you are apt to say or do things you later regret. Continued anger can take a heavy toll on mind and body.

    Why then, do we keep on losing our cool? We do it because it’s natural, instinctive and briefly satisfying-and because we haven’t stopped to consider how harmful it can be.

    Yet, that’s exactly what a successful manager must do: keep his cool. He can’t afford the luxury of a temper that makes him say and do foolish things and sours his relationships with his people.

    The most important time to hold your temper is when the other person has lost his, for it takes two to tangle. When someone else starts to grow angry, never respond in kind-no matter what the temptation. To be sure, this will sometimes require a Herculean effort, but the payoff is worth it: nothing to regret, nothing to apologize for, no strained relations to mend.