It can be stressful running a business and as small businesses we can experience a whole range of emotions many times a day depending upon the nature of our business environment and what type of SME issue we are dealing with at the time. But all of us will recognise that all too often we are under stress, however, few of us will realise how we behave when we’re under stress and what the impact of this can be on us and our businesses.
How well we deal with stress will impact upon our behaviours, and our relationships with the people we work with. My own personal experience of stress is one of being able to work relentlessly under stress. I used to think I was really good at working in a stressful environment but in actual fact I was very good at working under stress, just not very good at dealing with it – and this is not uncommon.
Do you know how your personality changes when you deal with stress? Take a look at the seven stress characters below and see if you recognise yourself?
The Time Thief
This character, when feeling overly challenged, resorts to the time (no pun intended) honoured tactic of seeking everyone else’s opinion on the issues they are facing. They think they are seeking advice but what they are really doing is taking up valuable time and attention from others. Taking advice on a difficult problem is often appropriate, after all our success is a factor of the people we work with in a team, however, what is not appropriate is using the seeking of advice as a means by which issues can be put off, avoided or forgotten about altogether.
The Self Improver
This person has more self help books on the shelf by their workspace than anyone else. They can quote you chapter and verse of Covey and comment knowledgeably on the One Minute Manager. What they seem unable to do is actually put in to practice one percent of what they have read and what they avidly retreat to when under more pressure than they can handle. One particularly memorable senior executive we worked with could chart the ups and downs of his career and the different challenges he had faced by pointing to the books he purchased as a response to each situation. The term losing oneself in a book is highly appropriate to this character.
The Caffeine Mainliner
You see them walking in grasping a large latte with a treble shot of espresso in it. This is their shield with magical qualities that will ward off all evil and keep troubles at bay. The reality being that they need more and more just to get to base level and all they are doing is lining large corporations pockets in an attempt to boost energy levels which have been eroded by overdosing on the very ingredient they now crave. Look out for the wide eyed manic stare and the mid morning personality change just before they rush off to get their shot of “normal juice”.
The Comfort Eater
Recognisable by the detritus of what they have consumed littering their desk and work area. These are the ones who have found that the warm feeling of a full belly filled with traditional comfort food gives them the temporary security to deal with the pressure they are under. Most often they have developed close relationships with a national burger chain and know the menu backwards. In these ever exposed and health conscious times some have become secret consumers of fat and sugar or have swapped to fruit without dealing with the quantity.
Life is boring without a little drama and this personality likes nothing more than to share their life and their challenges with all of us. They relish major change events and big swings in the fortunes of their department because this is what they live for. Deadlines are not a target but just some added drama to look forward to and witnessing confrontation is an event that they can dine out on for weeks. They don’t want help they just want to share the energy and the feelings.
No decisions can be thought about long enough, no detail overlooked. The words “let me think about that” really mean “oh no more to deal with, if I put you off may be you will forget about it.” Once seen as taking their responsibility seriously now they may be seen as unable to delegate and obsessing over details that may make the difference between stop or go. Files, memos and requests will surround them and their e-mail box will overflow and reject your messages. You may see it as paralysis by analysis in reality it is fear of making the decision that is causing the freeze.
The overflowing cup
This person believes in the principle that if you want something doing come to a busy person. At least they buy into that when you say it to them as part of your preamble to persuade them to take on more responsibility. Closely related to the procrastinator they once found that pressure worked to make them more productive and have been applying the technique over and again ever since. The reality is that they are getting less and less done but taking more and more on. The only way you get a result out of them is make yourself a polite pain in the backside and get your agenda to the top of theirs.
Now the serous side
Caricaturing workplace personalities can be a bit of fun. The serious side is about raising awareness of the behaviours and the issues that go alongside them. In broad terms these behaviours, and many more, relate to three broad headlines which break down as Distraction, Denial or Despair. None of them are productive and actually have an impact upon productivity, morale and the businesses ability to deal with change.
The health effects of too much fat, sugar and caffeine are well documented. Not so well documented but increasing in evidence is the links between stress and heart attack or stroke, serious illnesses and impacts on the immune system. If you add in the behavioural issues that arise including conflict and sabotage and silo mentality then the possibilities for damaging efficiency are endless.
If you can recognise these behaviours as part of your stress response and recognise whether you are trying to distract yourself, deny the issues you are dealing with or simply wallow in the pit of despair, then you too can take action to move way from these damaging and dragging characteristics that could be the difference between your profitable and your breakeven point.
Image: office stress via Shutterstock