By Connor Doyle

There are few things done in the business world that are performed at a leisurely pace. Owners don’t wander through their fiscal year, money doesn’t change hands without intent, and bosses don’t demand 10% of one’s abilities within a project. More often than not, there’s an urgency to requests. There’s an unspoken agreement that a concerted effort will be made towards completion in a timely manner. With that request comes pressure, and with that pressure often comes stress. But, there are many ways that employers and employees can alleviate the burden of stress. To do that, those involved need to be intimately familiar with pressure, stress, and the relationship between the two.

Pressure is something that everyone is acquainted with. It is a request that has something at stake; where the next action depends on the outcome of someone’s work. The phrases “We’ll go with what you decide,” or, “I need this within the hour” are classic pressure phrases, ones that people might often hear in a day-to-day work scenario. Pressure is something that’s imposed on someone through words or actions.

Stress, on the other hand, is a byproduct. Stress is not imposed; it is felt. Consistent pressure situations, uncertainty, and a lack of control can cause a person to feel stress. Stress in turn can manifest itself in the form of overeating, anxiety, or insomnia to name a few in the long list of side effects. It is a long-term problem that can lead to dissatisfaction with a job and difficulty in day-to-day life. Stress, contrary to pressure, is an overwhelmingly negative emotion.

Problems arise when pressures turn into stresses in a person’s life. Pressure situations can be beneficial to a person’s growth, but as long as they’re presented in a way that allows a person to flourish within a project.

  • The person performing the task must feel as though they’re in control of the situation while having enough information to see the project to its end. If there’s not enough information, make sure that support is available to be called upon.
  • A loss of control over a job or not having enough resources to perform a complex task are common causes of stress. Inflexibility with how something is done negativity towards an outcome can also impart stress, so it’s important to be flexible with the procedures and be positive in your outlook.

Everyone processes pressure and stresses differently, so it’s imperative that we recognize our habits and the habits of those around us in order to best approach a given situation.

Nevertheless, the onus is not only on the manager to provide a stress-free environment. The individual placed in the pressure situation is ultimately in control of how they process it. You must work against catastrophizing scenarios – where you get stuck in negative feedback loops thinking over worst case scenarios. You have to try to keep things in perspective and redirect yourself to areas where you can impart influence or control. Acceptance that situations are as they are can be one of the most difficult things to admit, but often provides the most relief in terms of alleviating the burden of stress.

The line that needs to be walked is thin, but the distinction between pressure and stress is important. Giving a person the opportunity to influence decisions, impart knowledge, and utilize their insight can enrich a project in ways you didn’t expect. It can build confidence and nurture the abilities of those performing the task, along with revealing abilities, strengthening weaknesses, and sharpening acumen. Keep in mind-too much pressure or too little guidance can lead to excessive stress and cause a person’s early demise. Think carefully about how you present tasks to people – it can be the difference between forging a diamond and having someone crack under the stress.

Connor Doyle is a Senior Auditor at Wiss & Company. If you would like to get in contact with Connor, you may reach him at 973.994.9400 or at


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