Does stress help performance and health? Or does stress hinder performance and health? The answer…it depends.
To answer that question we must first define stress; after all there is more than one type.
Performance Stress: Short term experience such as before a presentation or a deadline; typically there is an increase in heart rate and energy level. We have a trusted relationship for which we can bounce off our ideas, get support and feedback. This is a normal stress situation that can be very helpful and productive.
Event Stress: Periodic pressure based on incidents such as losing a piece of business; typically workable and tolerable although not ideal. To work through these situations, especially if at a high level, it is important to have a trusted relationship.
Persistent Stress: Long-term anxiety that can feel overwhelming, such as during lay-offs and restructuring especially when lasting for a significant period, while lacking a trusted advisor or supporter. This is a destructive state.
Having now defined stress we know that it can be helpful, tolerated, or harmful depending on the situation. How does this help us?
Individually: We should identify which types of situations put us in which types of stress. We should do our best to limit our exposure to “Event” and “Persistent” stresses. Most importantly we can seek out and develop a trusted or set of trusted relationships to help us in times of stress. That may be the difference for us between being in “Event” stress or “Persistent” stress. We can get stuck in bad places at times.
Organizationally: We must ensure that with all of the change and transformations going on we somehow keep important relationships intact or at the very least encourage new ones. When we lay-off significant amounts of people we destroy support structures that exist. In many cases, we can take perfectly good people (survivors) and leave them shipwrecked in the new organizational structure.
Let’s stay out of those bad places and stop shipwrecking our people. It is bad for performance; not to mention a few other things.