Stress is an unfortunate part of many jobs. We all operate under some level of stress—some days more and some days less. For managers and senior leaders, the stress is often elevated.
Not only are they managing teams of individuals, but they are held to a higher standard and have more responsibility for the outcomes of their teams than individual contributors do.
In fact, recent research suggests that many managers may not be able to handle that pressure, which results in overall poor team performance.
Managers Challenged to Handle Stress
According to a recent press release covering a study by researchers at VitalSmarts, at least one out of three managers can’t handle high-stakes, high-pressure situations.
The study found that when under stress, managers resort to counter-productive behaviors like being “more closed-minded and controlling than open and curious” (53 percent), “more upset and emotional than calm and in control” (45 percent) and “more angry and heated than cool and collected” (43 percent).
The study also found that managers who are able to stay calm in high-stress situations and stay in dialogue do perform better. Their teams do, too.
For example, teams whose managers were able to maintain a sense of calm were found to “meet quality standards 56% more of the time than teams whose manager does not achieve dialogue” and “act in ways that benefit customers 56% more of the time,” among other benefits.
When It Comes to Stress, We’re All at Risk
The effects of high stress can impact any manager, regardless of his or her background. VitalSmarts researchers noted that “contrary to popular belief, a manager’s ability or inability to deal with high-stakes, stressful situations has nothing to do with age or gender. Neither factor correlated with the skills and behaviors of dialogue under pressure.”
This research demonstrates the significant impacts that failing to manage high-stress situations can result in. Managers need to be able to control their emotions and cope with high-stress, high-stakes situations.
At the same time, companies need to be able to create an environment in which managers are able to do just that. In a follow-up post, we’ll talk about some strategies for helping managers cope with their stress.