The ability to work under pressure means you can still perform your job duties well, even in the presence of stress. These stressors may be caused by unforeseen circumstances and uncontrollable variables or by factors that can be predicted. To work effectively under pressure, you must not let these stressors distract you; it’s essential that you remain level-headed.

What is a good example of working under pressure?

Some examples of working under pressure include

  • Working extra hours to meet deadlines
  • Taking on the roles of coworkers who are ill
  • Completing a rushed order or quick-turnaround assignment
  • Taking charge of a new department
  • Having your skills or performance reviewed by a manager

If you can work well under pressure, you can instantly improve your chances of getting a job, among other benefits, such as:

  • You save time by finishing tasks more efficiently.
  • You’re more focused.
  • You channel more energy into your assignments.

How to Build the Ability to Work Under Pressure: 5 Tips

If you’re wondering how to work under pressure, here are five ways you can better develop your ability:

1. Create a Strategy Plan

Failing to plan is planning to fail. No matter how much pressure you’re facing in a given situation, you should take time to plan your course of action. You should never “wing it” or “shoot from the hip” when dealing with stressful situations; this may lead to you missing important details that could cause an even bigger headache down the line.

Planning also lets you see the situation from a broader perspective, helping you to understand what is really at stake. Once you’ve developed your plan, break it down into smaller, more-manageable steps. This will keep you from feeling overwhelmed or falling even further behind, which will only add to your stress. Then, work on staying resilient, working through one step at a time, and seeing the task through to the end.

2. Prepare for What You Know

You may not be able to plan for every possible contingency, but you can prepare for the known variables. If working under pressure comes in the form of important deadlines, sales pitches, presentations, or other items scheduled on your calendar, plan accordingly.

The only thing worse than getting caught off guard by unforeseen circumstances is being unprepared for the things you knew were coming. Those are the failures that can get you in the most trouble.

3. Delegate When Possible

If you manage a team, don’t try to take everything on by yourself. Rally the troops and spread the work around so that everyone contributes to managing the task load and the pressure that comes with it.

Even if you don’t manage a team, you can still ask for help. Look to your managers or other coworkers to see if they can help on the project. Chances are good that they’ll be happy to lighten your load as long as it doesn’t put too much pressure on their other responsibilities.

4. Adopt a “Done is Better than Perfect” Mindset

Crunch time is no time to be a perfectionist. In these situations, recognize that you have limited time and resources; just focus on delivering the essential tasks or items for whatever you have to do.

Don’t spend too much time focusing on tiny details, and don’t micromanage others into doing that either. Just focus on what needs to be accomplished for the project to be delivered—no more and no less.

5. Schedule Breaks (and Take Them)

When working under pressure, it’s easy to skip lunch and regular breaks when working on a complicated and rushed assignment. But taking those breaks will help ease the burden. Take five minutes to decompress, take a walk, get a drink of water, and free your mind from the task at hand for a little while.

Discover how CMOE's leadership training workshops can create lasting change and address the unique needs of your leaders.

Know Your Limits of Stress

While the ability to work under pressure is a good quality to have in any industry, be aware of how much pressure you can withstand before you reach your limit. People can only handle so much pressure at a time—and trying to push past your threshold can be seriously detrimental to your physical and mental well-being.

Working under significant pressure shouldn’t be the norm. If you feel like your assignments constantly put you under intense pressure, you may be working for a dysfunctional leader or an organization that simply asks too much of you.

Many job interviewers will ask about your ability to work under pressure, so it’s important for you to have a satisfactory response. Take a look at why this question is so important to employers, how you should respond, and what you can do to work more effectively under pressure.

Why Do Employers Ask About Working Under Pressure?

Prospective employers will usually ask you about your ability to handle pressure in order to gauge your flexibility. Even if you’re the most organized and prepared person in the world, unexpected changes and events still occur. So, if you want to progress in the interview process, you’ll need to share an experience where you adapted well to stressful conditions.

How to Prove You Can Work Under Pressure During an Interview

Maybe you’re an absolute pro when it comes to working under pressure. You and your previous coworkers know this, but how do you demonstrate the ability to work under pressure during an interview?

When asked about your ability to work under pressure, give concrete and specific examples. Try to think of a time when pressure made you more productive and had a positive outcome. Your response should follow a three-part structure:

1. Tell a Story

Start by setting the scene. What was the stressful situation? What caused it? What specific challenges were you or your team facing? What would the consequences of failure be?

Give your interviewer enough information so he or she can fully understand the kind of pressure you were under. Once that is properly established, move on to describing the actions you took.

2. Explain Your Solution

Talk about what you did to adapt to the stressful situation. This may be an outline of the plan you devised to attack the difficult task, an explanation of your level-headed mindset, or a description of a collaborative effort you led with your coworkers to maintain productivity.

You might also choose to explain the skills you’ve developed from dealing with stressful situations, like learning to prioritize tasks or knowing when to ask for help.

3. Share the Results

To prove your success at working under pressure, share the results. Did you complete the task on time and with satisfactory quality? In what ways was your company positively affected by your actions?

By backing up your narrative with measurable results, you can provide a stronger response and nail the interview.

What Not to Say About Working Under Pressure

There are a few kinds of details you should not share, no matter how well they show your ability to remain calm under pressure. These include the categories below:

  • Stressful situations you caused Even if you redeemed yourself later, it’s best to avoid telling stories about problems you created.
  • The amount of stress you felt Employers don’t want to know how stressed you get, they just want to know how you handle stress when you experience it. Additionally, you should never say you are “immune to stress;” the interviewer is unlikely to believe you or may assume that you are simply unaware of stressors in the workplace (neither of which reflect well on you).

Start Preparing for Your Next Job Today

You don’t need to hold off on your next career move. Start preparing for your next job by developing the talents employers seek. One way you can achieve this is by enrolling in CMOE’s Personal Impact workshop. The Personal Impact workshop is designed to help you develop your ability to influence others and become an exceptional employee. If you have more questions about this or our other courses, contact us.

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About the Author
CMOE’s Design Team is comprised of individuals with diverse and complementary strengths, talents, education, and experience who have come together to bring a unique service to CMOE’s clients. Our team has a rich depth of knowledge, holding advanced degrees in areas such as business management, psychology, communication, human resource management, organizational development, and sociology.

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