What Does Working Under Pressure Mean?

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Pressure, commonly recognized as urgency in your personal and professional affairs or business, is a feeling everyone can relate to. Common causes of workplace and personal stress are a sudden, last-minute change, a looming deadline and a lack of knowledge or expertise required to finish an objective. Those who work well under pressure or thrive under pressure produce outstanding, clear-headed work when others fall apart at the seams.

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)

Working under pressure means being able to continue doing your job effectively despite demands and stresses like not enough help, time, money or expertise.

Ability to Work Under Pressure Definition

Small business owners, managers and employees often find the need to work under pressure, meaning they must still perform well despite stresses like not having enough time, help or expertise to complete a certain task. This requires being able to put aside frustrations and emotions to continue to work as normal and avoid harming your quality or efficiency of work.

Some example scenarios demonstrating the calm under pressure definition include:

  • An manager handling the work of absent employees to keep customers satisfied.
  • An accountant working extra long hours to meet the company's tax deadline.
  • A sales person struggling to meet a quota when customers keep declining his offers.
  • A cashier needing to efficiently check out customers when there's a huge line and no other help.
  • A new business owner juggling the many hats of running a small business while lacking strong knowledge of some business areas.

Manifestations of Pressure

Individuals who are not dealing well with personal or workplace stress might not realize it immediately. However, personal stress can seep into the workplace and vice versa. Common manifestations of pressure include sleeplessness, a short temper and difficulty concentrating; lack of patience with others is common. Some people "forget" to eat, and others eat too much. Excessive exercise is another indicator.

Those who deal well with pressure often find themselves pursuing lucrative careers, because these jobs usually have large amounts of stress. They are usually good planners who stay mentally tough and balanced; these qualities can prevent not only early burnout but also stress-induced health problems.

The Positives of Pressure

The biggest positive to working well under pressure is the ability to lead a team in a focused, thoughtful and composed manner. Some who thrive under pressure find themselves feeling more mentally alert; these qualities make a good leader.

Some who consider themselves "procrastinators" are actually "incubators," who subconsciously solve problems. These incubators usually find a looming deadline motivating and complete superior work on deadline and in a short amount of time. As a result, they find that professional success comes easier to them.

The Negatives of Pressure

The negatives of pressure are many. Too much stress can affect your sleeping and eating habits. It affects your personal relationships, especially if you're spending most of your time at the office and missing out on your family's day-to-day life. If you're short or distracted with them while at home, that hurts, as well.

Too much stress also affects how well you concentrate, and you could be prone to mistakes, compounding the stress. Stress is what motivates you to keep the work-life balance intact. When you effectively manage stress with your professional and family obligations, you've reached your goal.

Tips for Working Well Under Pressure

Keep control of your emotions; if necessary, walk outside for five minutes. Take this time to briefly evaluate the problem and potential responses, and stay focused; responding right away might not be mission-critical. Be flexible; consider the best- and worst-case scenarios, and develop a plan to address both, if a plan isn't in place already.

Write down a to-do list of actions you can take, or delegate, to address the situation. When each action is completed, cross it off. As the British say, "keep calm and carry on."

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About the Author

Lisa Bigelow is an independent writer with prior professional experience in the finance and fitness industries. She also writes a well-regarded political commentary column published in Fairfield, New Haven and Westchester counties in the New York City metro area.

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