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Under Pressure? 6 Ways to Stay Cool, Calm, and Collected

Under Pressure? 6 Ways to Stay Cool, Calm, and Collected

Your presentation, audition, or job interview starts at 10am, but a few minutes before, you start to feel like the clock’s a few ticks away from High Noon. It’s a good thing you used extra deodorant because you’re feeling the heat.

If you’re one of those people who think that they always rise to the occasion, you’re wrong! 25 years of research from around the globe indicates that the overwhelming majority of individuals perform below their capabilities in a highly pressure scenario. This is categorized as a situation in which   they have something at stake and the outcome is dependent on their performance.

Specifically, experiencing pressure downgrades your ability to access cognitive success tools: memory, attention, comprehension, judgment and decision making. Pressure also diminishes your psychomotor skills; these skills include your golf swing, or the ability to walk up to the podium —stumble, trip, crash!

You don’t have to crumble under pressure; you just have to immunize yourself to its injurious effects. Here are some “pressure solutions” that will help you to be cool, calm, and collected so you can do your best when it matters most:

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Write off the pressure

Preparing yourself to give your best presentation or readying yourself for your Monday morning interview starts Sunday night, or the night before any pressure scenario. Pressure often derails you by filling your mind with distracting and anxiety-arousing thoughts, such as “What if I can’t get a job?” or, “I wonder if these clients like me.”

These thoughts have nothing to do with the facts that you need to present, but they do make you lose focus. This will make it harder for you to recall the facts that you need to have at your fingertips. You only have so much space in your working memory, and worried thoughts take up the space that you need for your presentation information, or facts about your previous jobs. Studies show that you can minimize the likelihood of worrisome thoughts surfacing during your presentation if you write down your anxieties about giving a poor presentation the night before. In effect, you are getting them out of your system.

Adopt a low-pressure mindset

Individuals who don’t crumble under pressure hold a particular mindset that minimizes feelings of pressure and allows them to approach their presentations with confidence– not trepidation.

A presentation is a positive event. Individuals often “choke” because they interpret the presentation or crucial conversation as a threatening event, a perception that increases anxiety and fear. Telling yourself that every presentation is an opportunity, challenge, and a fun change of pace will decrease feelings of pressure and allow you to enjoy the experience and do your best. Build these words into your thinking and use them when you think of a pressure-filled scenario.

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A presentation to important clients or an interview for your dream job is very important, but telling yourself that “it’s a chance of a lifetime” will make you think that it’s a “do or die” moment. This will only intensify your feelings of pressure. Instead, remind yourself that this one of many opportunities that will come your way. It’s not a “must game.” Doing so will keep you calm and make it easier for you to focus on doing your best.

Anticipate, anticipate, anticipate

What if your power break glitches?

What if several members of your audience leave abruptly?

What if you’re told your interview is a group interview five minutes before you start?

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For most individuals unexpected events cause a pressure surge –a spiked arousal that evokes threatening and defeatist thoughts, causing them to lose their composure, go off-track and miss their mark. It’s like when a golfer can’t recover after an unexpected folly.

Prevent this from happening by anticipating potential mishaps that could surface during your presentation, no matter how slim. Then, mentally rehearse your solutions. Being prepared for anything surges your confidence and that translates into a less pressure-filled presentation.

Clench your left fist

A common factor that prevents individuals from giving presentations are chronic anxiety-arousing thoughts. These thoughts need to be extinguished. Very recent studies show that clenching your left fist a minute before your presentation will do the job for you. This action inhibits the language area in the left hemisphere of your brain that is responsible for these troublesome thoughts and primes the right side of your brain that is responsible for delivering a well-rehearsed skill, such as your presentation. If you are on a golf course, squeeze a ball before each shot and you will find your mind has stopped ruminating about your swing, stance and what your partner thinks of your game. Instead, you’ll just do it! Caveat: you must be right-handed for this to work. Sorry, lefties.

Walk like a champ

Neuroscientists and social psychologists have uncovered plenty of data that indicates how your posture impacts how you feel. Accordingly, experiment with different postures and you’ll note that some make you feel more confident than others. A few minutes before you enter a pressure-filled scenario, walk confidently down the hall or around your office. You’ll feel the difference.

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When the time comes to face your audience, use your confidence posture: stand up straight and expand your chest. If sitting, sit up straight –you’ll breathe easier and think more clearly. Confidence will help you to conquer pressure, so it’s smart to remember to walk like a champ.

Affirm your self worth

Step back to realize that your life is not defined by how well you give a presentation, whether you land the job, or how successful you are at work. Individuals who define their self-esteem by how well they do in any given situation allocate themselves a heavy dose of extra pressure, feeling they have to produce results 24/7. Before you go to work, and before every high pressure moment, remind yourself that you are a worthy person independent of your work performance. You’ll feel a reduction in the pressure that you feel and you’ll perform more effectively.

Follow these tips and you’ll find that you’ll be cool, calm, and collected when it matters most. You’ll enjoy your share of successes, and at the same time, take control of pressure-filled situations!

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Published on November 12, 2020

5 Signs You Work in a Toxic Environment (And What To Do)

5 Signs You Work in a Toxic Environment (And What To Do)

What’s the most draining, miserable job you’ve ever had? Maybe you had a supervisor with unrealistic demands about your work output and schedule. Or perhaps, you worked under a bullying boss who frequently lost his temper with you and your colleagues, creating a toxic work environment.

Chances are, though, your terrible job experience was more all-encompassing than a negative experience with just one person. That’s because, in general, toxicity at work breeds an entire culture. Research shows abusive behavior by leaders can and often quickly spread through an entire organization.[1]

Unfortunately, working in a toxic environment doesn’t just make it miserable to show up to the office (or a Zoom meeting). This type of culture can have lasting negative effects, taking a toll on mental and physical health and even affecting workers’ personal lives and relationships.[2]

While it’s often all-encompassing, toxic culture isn’t always as blatant or clear-cut as abuse. Some of the evidence is more subtle—but it still warrants concern and action.

Have a feeling that your workplace is a toxic environment? Here are 5 surefire signs to look for.

1. People Often Say (or Imply) “That’s Not My Job”

When I first launched my company, I had a very small team. And back then, we all wore a lot of hats, simply because we had to. My colleagues and I worked tirelessly together to build, troubleshoot, and market our product, and nobody complained (at least most of the time).

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Because we were all in it together, with the same shared vision in mind, cooperation mattered so much more than job titles. Unfortunately, it’s not always that way.

In some workplaces, people adhere to their job descriptions to a fault:

  • Need help with an accounting problem? Sorry, that’s not my job.
  • Oh, you spilled your coffee in the break room? Too bad, I’m working.
  • Can’t figure out the new software? Ask IT.

While everyone has their own skillset—and time is often at a premium—cooperation is important in any workplace. An “it’s not my job” attitude is a sign of a toxic environment because it’s inherently selfish. It implies “I only care about me and what I have to get done” and that people aren’t concerned about the collective good or overall vision.[3] That type of perspective is not only bound to drain individual relationships; it also drains overall morale and productivity.

2. There’s a Lack of Diversity

Diversity is a vital part of a healthy work environment. We need the opinions and ideas of people who don’t see the world like us to move ahead. So, when leaders don’t prioritize diversity—or worse, they actively avoid it—I’m always suspicious about their character and values.

Limiting your workforce to one type of person is bound to prevent organizations from growing healthily. But even if your work environment is diverse in general, the management might prevent diverse individuals from rising to leadership positions, which only misses the point of having a diverse work environment in the first place.

Look around you. Who’s in leadership at your company? Who gets promotions and rewards most often? If the same type of people gets ahead while other individuals consistently get left behind, you might be working in a toxic environment.

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However it manifests in your workplace, keep in mind that a lack of diversity is a tell-tale sign that “bias is rampant and the wrong things are valued.”[4]

3. Feedback Isn’t Allowed

Just as individual growth hinges on being open to criticism, an organization’s well-being depends on workers’ ability to air their concerns and ideas. If management actively stifles feedback from employees, you’re probably working in a toxic environment.

But that definitely doesn’t mean nobody will air their feelings. One of the telltale signs of toxic leadership is when employees vent on the sidelines, out of management’s earshot. When I worked in a toxic environment, coworkers would often complain about higher-ups and company policies during work in private chats or after work hours.

It’s normal to get frustrated at work. That’s just a part of having a job. What isn’t normal is when dissent isn’t a part of or discouraged in the workplace. A workplace culture that suppresses constructive feedback will not be successful in the long run. It’s a sign that leadership isn’t open to new ideas, and that they’re more concerned about their own well-being than the health of the organization as a whole.

4. Quantifiable Measures Take Priority

Sales numbers, timelines, bottom lines—these metrics are, of course, important signs of how things are going in any business. But great leaders know that true success isn’t always measurable or quantifiable. More meaningful factors like workplace satisfaction, teamwork, and personal growth all contribute to and sustain these metrics.

Numbers don’t always tell the whole story, and they shouldn’t be the only concern. Measure-taking should always take a backseat to meaning-making—working together to contribute to a vision that improves people’s lives. If your workplace zones in on quantifiable measures of success, it’s probably not prioritizing what truly matters. And it’s probably also instilling a fear of failure among employees, which paralyzes employees instead of motivating them.

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5. The Policies and Rules Are Inconsistent

Every organization has its own set of unique policies and procedures. But often, unhealthy workplaces have inconsistent, unspoken “rules” that apply differently to different people. When one person gets in trouble for the same type of behavior that promotes another person, workers will feel like management plays favorites—which isn’t just unethical but also a quick way to drain morale and fuel tension in the office.[5] It only shows how incompetent the leadership is and indicates a toxic workplace.

For example, maybe there’s no “set” rule about work hours, but your manager expects certain people or departments to show up at 8 am while other individuals tend to roll in at 9 or 10 am with no real consequences. If that’s the case, then it’s likely that your organization’s leadership is more concerned with controlling people and exerting power rather than the overall good of their employees.

How to Deal With a Toxic Work Environment

The first thing to know if you’re stuck in a toxic work environment is that you’re not stuck. While it’s ultimately the company’s responsibility to make positive changes that prevent harmful actions to employees, you also have an opportunity to speak up about your concerns—or, if necessary, depart the role altogether.

If you suspect that you’re working in a toxic environment, think about how you can advocate for yourself. Start by raising your grievances about the culture in an appropriate setting, like a scheduled, one-on-one meeting with your supervisor.

Can’t imagine sitting down with your supervisor to air those problems on your own? Form some solidarity with like-minded colleagues. Approaching management might feel less overwhelming when you have a “team” who shares your views.

It doesn’t have to be an overtly confrontational discussion. Do your best to frame your concerns in a positive way by sharing with your supervisor that you want to be more productive at work, but certain problems sometimes get in the way.

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Final Thoughts

If your supervisor truly cares about the well-being of the organization, they will take your concerns seriously and actively take part in changing the toxic work environment into something more conducive to productivity.

If not, then it might be time to consider the cost of the job on your well-being and personal life. Is it worth staying just for your resume’s sake? Or could you consider a “bridge” job that allows you to exhale for a bit, even if it doesn’t “move you ahead” the way you planned?

It might not be the ideal situation, but your mental health and well-being are too important to ignore. And when you have the opportunity to refuel, you’ll be a far more valuable asset at whatever amazing job you land next.

More Tips on Dealing With a Toxic Work Environment

Featured photo credit: Campaign Creators via unsplash.com

Reference

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