Healthy human beings are surprisingly resilient. We all have inbuilt mechanisms to be flexible and adaptable with change, thus we are able to cope under pressure. When one strategy stops working most people adjust to trying something else. However, when we are under prolonged or acute stress our ability to adapt is diminished.
The strong personality strengths that have worked for us so well – can now go into overdrive, enslaving us in fixed patterns of thinking and behaving even when they have stopped producing the desired results.
This pattern of behaviour becomes like a one-act play doomed to that itself over and over. Over time we exacerbate problems, forcing situations where we our self-defeating behaviours replay our failures in daily scenarios.
When a whole team is under pressure we can make each other miserable.
The team can begin to act as one personality as each member adjusts to cope with the dysfunctions of the others. So the group as a whole can demonstrate a shared psyche being anxious, afraid, angry, self-serving, destructive, depressive, or passive-aggressive. This is a toxic culture — created by everyone, poisoning everyone, and hated by everyone. But without intervention the group will feed on itself with individuals choosing to leave as their only way to survive.
At The Colloquium Group we work with teams under pressure to build resilience and restore vitality. We often use Icarus* a team development tool, designed to create healthy awareness and discussion on how we think and behave differently under pressure. It was developed by The Colloquium Group as part of a PhD research study in alignment with the Fifth Edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM-V).
Here are some examples of how, if we are unaware, our personality styles can change under pressure, and wreak havoc in our team:
Under stress your diligence can become obsessive:
DILIGENT: You are conscientous and take your responsibilities seriously. If you say it will be done – you mean it. You enjoy focusing on details and getting things completed. You will go the extra mile to ensure the high quality of what you’re doing.
OBSESSED: You can’t let go of a task unless it’s finished exactly how you want it. You miss the big picture but get the details right. You impose rigid structures to control uncertainties. Core business needs get lost as you devote more and more time to managing the details.
Under stress your confidence can become arrogance:
CONFIDENT: You strongly hold views but adapt them to fit with new information. You listen first and then strongly advocate your position. You have a powerful self-image that you use to influence others. You are aware of your weaknesses and accept responsibility when things go wrong.
ARROGANT: You strongly hold views and reinterpret events and facts to fit. You strongly advocate your position and disregard other’s views. You have a powerful self-image that you use to dominate others. You are blind to your own weaknesses and don’t accept responsibility when things go wrong.
Under stress your vigilance can become distrust:
VIGILANT: You anticipate what could go wrong before you make a decision. You don’t like criticism but you will listen and learn. When you give feedback you balance negative comments with positive ones. You are very aware that people might be trying to take advantage of you.
DISTRUSTING: You’re obsessed with what could go wrong – to the point that its hard to take positive action. Your feedback is always focused on the negative. You’re always looking for proof that your negative assumptions about people are proved true. You’re dismissive of feedback as its always biased.