The Upside of Being Under Pressure Together

As part of an ROTC scholarship, I spent a summer during college in naval training. It taught me a lot about dealing with adversity.

Every night of boot camp, we would go to bed fully clothed for a 4 a.m. wakeup. We were allowed only five minutes to eat meals; our officers liked to say that if the fork went in our mouths, we were eating too slowly. We had only 10 seconds to shave—with government-issued blades that almost always resulted in cuts.

There was a reason for all of this. It’s not that our officers were secretly sadists—well, maybe some of them were. We cadets were put through this type of training to demonstrate our commitment and loyalty, but also because it united us as a group.

Now, your employees will all quit if you put them through a boot camp like this. But there are ways your team can benefit from collective stress.

I’m not saying you should create stress and hostility in your workplace. But when your team members are under pressure to meet deadlines or overcome trouble, you can help them find meaning in the adversity. Remind them of instances when they worked together to meet tough challenges in the past and how they used those difficulties as glue to create a stronger bond between them.

As I wrote in Before Happiness, stress is inevitable, but its effects are not. Stress can tear a team apart if it is ignored or feared, but if used as a positive, it can be the force that keeps a team together and working well. The key is to find the right narrative.

This article appears in the October 2015 issue of SUCCESS magazine.

There’s no escaping everyday anxiety, but there can be an upside to that stress—if you learn how to harness it.


Shawn Achor is a Harvard-trained researcher and best-selling author of The Happiness Advantage and Before Happiness. Get a daily dose of happy at Shawn's Facebook page.

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