02 Jan 2014

Does stress bring out the true personality?

02 Jan 2014

stress personality and effects on staff turnoverOver the past few weeks I’ve had several people make the remark that Stress brings out the true personality of a person.

Each discussion had been about how teams are often run in the workplace. Management taking the view that in order to make the workers perform and give maximum productivity, the best strategy was to

  • crack the whip over their heads
  • make them fear their job was in jeopardy if they didn’t make a deadline or specific goal
  • make them think they had to perform better than the next team member to encourage competition
  • overload them with work and long hours to see which was the fittest and worthy of surviving

It would certainly bring out extreme behaviour but, is this the true personality of that person?

In my eyes, no. It is the opposite.

Sure you get diversity in the behaviour patterns. Each person reacts to stress and anxiety in their own way. Survival reactions are not who they truly are though.

Let’s look more closely at that reactive behaviour.

The body and brain kick in “fight or flight” reaction when put under stress. In order to survive the reaction needs to be quick.

When your life is being threatened this fight or flight reaction works well but, how does it impact our reactions in the workplace?


When someone is under threat at work and their instinct might be to fight, make a noise and stand their ground. They tend to become aggressive, insensitive to the needs of others and ethics tend to go out the window as they do “whatever is necessary” to get ahead, crushing any number of co-workers to keep their position and boost their reputation.

They might frequently point the finger and accuse others of incompetence in order to step out of management’s firing line or to be seen as working for the benefit of the company by weeding out the weak and the incompetent.

Testosterone abounds, even in the women, and the yang dominates the yin – if you get what I mean. Tempers flare quickly. Gossipers abound. Even deliberate sabotage of other team member’s work.

When the feeling is that, in order to survive, their performance needs to stand taller than their co-workers and they fear they don’t have the ability to do that, the easiest way to stand tall is to kick everyone in the balls around you and make them double over so you appear to be taller.

There’s a lot of fight, force and pushing going on with very little balancing compromise or acceptance of alternative ways to get the same results.

This is common in sales and marketing, idea-makers or outward bound type jobs. We call these the masculine aspect jobs of the business.


This is more common in the feminine aspect jobs of the business. Supporting roles, product creators, administration, customer service. Flight is about extracting yourself from the danger spot.

They tend to distance themselves from their co-workers. They are less likely to share their worries in case it is used against them so communication breaks down.

Rather than fighting back against unacceptable aggression – often from their superior who is also stressed – they tend to absorb it all like a sponge expressing it in a failure of their health and the number sick days increases.

They lose their pride in the company and their job. They are indifferent to company needs and don’t even feel like celebrating if the company makes a big win. They’ll more likely expel a sigh of relief. They will work damn hard but their heart is no longer in it which can be a huge drag on the progress of the company.

These extreme behaviours under threatening circumstances are not who the person truly is.

How do we find their true personality and why do we care?

Imagine a workplace set up with the opposite management strategy.

Workers are made to feel

  • secure in their job
  • acknowledged for their contribution
  • heard and recognised for their suggestions
  • celebrated for their personal success and achievement
  • like they are valuable. Without them the company would not have the same dynamic

When workers feel valued, acknowledged, heard and cared for they tend to relax and start enjoying their work. “Relaxing” sounds like they will slow down and not work so hard. There are benefits to this though.

Less mistakes are made, the quality of the work improves and the creative ideas are more inventive. The best ideas can only come from a relaxed meditative mind free of stress. This is why so many inventors came up with their most astonishing discoveries while they were relaxing under an apple tree, sliding into a bath, doing some gardening or going for a swim.

Your brain needs to be disconnected so you stop trying to “figure” it out and start letting your intuitive answers come to you. These are always far better answers than anything you could hope to figure out.

Removing the stress also tends to bring the workers happiness levels up. What’s the value in that? They are more manageable, amenable and the communication opens up which increases staff morale. Happiness and security builds a stronger team who are no longer competing against each other but keen to co-operate together to drive the business forward.

A well aligned team who are working together is a force to be reckoned with compared to the strategy of “divide and conquer”.

When a worker is comfortable in their environment and given permission to express their true personality this adds integrity to what they are doing and affects the company integrity as a whole. They become proud ambassadors to your brand, wanting to stay to do a great job.

Summing up

Allowing workers a safe and happy environment to work in improves the quality of their work, the quantity of innovative ideas and a stronger team. It also means your staff turnover will reduce drastically saving you time, mistakes and precious company profits.

Are you ready to build a team like this?

* Look at using Kitegirl Stress Relief for each staff member as a quick fix in starting the process. This is a cost effective e-learning product for which only requires approximately 1 hour a week over a 5 week period. Enquire about booking in your team to do the course online.

* Have Kitegirl improve your office culture. It’s often easier for an external person to come into your company with no personal agenda or involvement in the office politics to take a truly fresh perspective on what is holding your company back. Using coaching and facilitating to rebuild the integrity of workers and the teams you’ll be flying better than ever before in less than 6 months. Make an enquiry here.

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