One semester in college, I took a Business Management class. The class was all about managing a business and we did a fairly in depth section about motivating employees.
Part of the discussion in this section that intrigued me was the use of stress to help improve productivity. The key takeaway was that too much stress will decrease productivity but a little stress can actually make people work harder and be more productive.
The word stress is so ugly and associated with nothing but negativity for most people. So the thought of stress actually helping you out is a little mind boggling at first. But I kid you not, it works.
Imagine If There Was No Pressure To Perform
Think about your job. If you knew that you couldn’t get fired no matter how bad of a job you did, would you perform to the best of your ability? Here’s a clip from one of my favorite movies, Office Space. In the clip, Peter’s having an interview with “The Bobs” who are sent to his office to fire employees. In his interview, he talks about how he basically has no motivation to work hard outside of the fear of being fired. I’m sure you can relate.
(If you’ve never seen Office Space before, you need to watch it.)
Peter is dead on about motivation here. But the thing is, the stress that comes along with not wanting to be fired is actually beneficial. That same stress is what makes you work hard enough to get a raise or promotion.
Too Much Stress Can Hurt
The problem that happens in a lot of companies is that they don’t how to use stress effectively. The end result is employees that feel like Peter.
We have all experienced jobs that put so much pressure and stress on you that just the thought of going into work gets you tense. This type of stress can be caused by any number of things:
Co-workers who don’t pull their weight
Ridiculous company standards
What’s the Right Amount of Stress?
So how much stress is enough to make you productive without wanting to slam your head into a wall after work? The answer really depends on you and your tolerance. There are some people who love really tight deadlines and extreme structure at work. Others prefer more freedom and have little to no patience for stress.
In case there are any manager reading this post, my suggestion would be to get to know your staff. You really don’t know how much pressure someone can handle until you get to know them a little bit. Like I said, everyone’s tolerance level is different.
Using Stress as a Motivator
Once you start to feel stressed at work, you have to know how to channel it and use it properly. Otherwise, your performance is going to suffer and it starts to effect your life outside of work. You won’t be able to enjoy your personal life because you’re constantly thinking about the stress of being at work. It sucks, trust me.
Instead of letting the stress get to you, turn it around and use it as motivation. If you’re stressed about a presentation you have to give next week, use that as motivation to make sure the presentation kicks ass. Is your boss breathing down your neck to get something done? Finish the project as quickly as possible (with great quality of course) and turn it in to your boss like it was nothing.
Occupy your mind with the motivation to get your mind off of the stress. The reason that stressful situations tend to completely disrupt our work lives is because we let it consume us. Instead of focusing on getting a project done, we focus on how stressed we are about getting the project done. Once you understand that it needs to be the other way around, you’ll be able to be more productive than ever.
The next time you get stressed out at work, don’t think about it so negatively. Use it as motivation to get things done and be the BOSS that you are.