Pressure at work – the good and the bad

woman suffering pressure from work overloadPressure at work has been argued to be a positive when it encourages people to perform to the absolute best of their abilities. It acts rather like “nerves” can aid an actor or athlete to give a good performance.

It contributes to increased productivity and can concentrate the mind in ways that result in innovative solutions to seemingly intractable problems whereas insufficient pressure can lead to under-stimulation and boredom.

Pressure can affect bosses, managers and employees alike. Pressure can however, also have negative consequences.

Firstly, what types of negative pressure are there?

Negative pressure tends to be the result of excessive pressure such as when unreasonable demands are made.

Such demands might include the pressure to work longer and longer hours, but without a sense of worth or achievement from the extra work, a lack of prospects for development or promotion, unreasonable targets, a lack of support, financial and job insecurity, and many more examples.

Such pressure can be cultural, ie endemic throughout a business, or it can be down to individual management style. Essentially it is evidenced as management by fear and coercion to get results.

At its root, negative pressure makes individuals feel out of control and to feel that they are not able to influence their goals and how to achieve them.

The relationship between pressure and stress

Negative pressure manifests itself as ‘stress’ which in turn can be detrimental to health.

If pressure causes stress then the negative effects are likely to show in people’s behaviour although all too often this pressure can build internally without others being aware of it.

Irritability, a sense of isolation, feelings of lack of control or involvement in decision-making, extreme competitiveness and lack of an ability to work co-operatively with colleagues may all be signs of negative pressure.

None of these is helpful to mental health and ultimately a business will suffer if it does not have support systems in place to monitor and help staff.

Harnessing the power of positive pressure means a business needs realistic and achievable goals and needs to be aware of the impact of pressure on individual members of staff.

If these are not present, ultimately a business risks disengagement by staff which in turn risks the future survival of the business even when short term results are being achieved.

(Picture supplied by Freedigitalphotos.net: “Overwhelmed With Too Many Tasks” by marcolm)

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