Pressure Points

From slack clients to looming deadlines, survive high-pressure work situations with these tips.

PRESSURE POINT #1: You haven’t heard back from a client, and your deadline is in an hour.
Before you start hyperventilating, take a breath and think clearly. While the clients ‘is always right’, your boss expects your work completed on time too. Be as pro-active as possible, advises Lawrence Wordon, managing director of Kelly recruitment agency in Johannesburg. If you’re waiting on a response to a question, think of all the realistically possible answers you could receive. Then try to plan ahead for each situation, so when you do receive the client’s response you can immediately take action. Keep your boss in the know and never submit any information without your client’s knowledge or approval, he warns.

If that doesn’t work, simply ‘call the client, explain the deadline, and ask for [immediate] feedback,’ says Anna Martyn, executive search specialist and founder of placement agency, Careers By Design.

PRESSURE POINT #2: It’s 3am and you have a presentation at 8am, but you’re still not finished.
The feeling of not having enough time is frustrating, stressful and sometimes immobilising. But don’t fret. Make yourself a cup of strong coffee, recommends Martyn. Open the windows for fresh air and calmly work through until your presentation is finished, she adds.

‘Don’t procrastinate at this hour,’ says Wordon. ‘Complete your presentation by providing a brief outline of your idea or concept, but make sure that you can present your idea in detail.’ While you might think you’re de-motivated at 3am, you’ll feel even worse when you wake up with drool all over your unfinished spreadsheets. ‘Never underestimate the value of thorough planning,’ advises Wordon. ‘It is the solid foundation of your success in your job.’

PRESSURE POINT #3: You’re already busy with an important project when your boss gives you another task. Both need to be completed by the end of the day.
Watching new work pile up on your already overcrowded desk is never comforting, but prioritising your workload is the best way to handle the paper pile. ‘Talk directly to your boss,’ advises Martyn. ‘Give him or her your project progress report with a designated time frame until completion.’

‘If you are not sure which task is more important at this stage, speak up!’ says Wordon. Ask your boss which task is more important. ‘You might even be able to delegate one of your tasks.’

PRESSURE POINT #4: You’re in a meeting and get blamed for something that wasn’t your fault.
One of your ‘less-efficient’ colleagues has decided to make you responsible for their mistake and you’re understandably angry. But, before you throw yourself across the table and show your co-worker what your stilettos are made of, relax. ‘Don’t be confrontational in the meeting or disrespect your boss,’ warns Martyn. ‘State clearly that you have facts proving that you were not at fault and will address it after the meeting in private.’

‘Explain in a calm manner that there must have been a misunderstanding and explain how you understood the situation,’ advises Wordon.

When you speak with your boss after the meeting, make sure all of your facts are in order and address him or her in a professional, non-personal manner, says Martyn. She recommends that when your boss apologises, ensure he or she does this publicly, with the same people who were in the meeting to ensure your name and reputation remain intact.

However, it’s best now to dwell on these matters, says Wordon. ‘Rather focus on what can be done to rectify the situation, or complete the task as soon as possible.’

PRESSURE POINT #5: Your colleague isn’t pulling his or her weight, but is getting all of the credit.

‘The suggested tactic would be to call a meeting with your boss and address your concerns directly with management,’ says Martyn. She advises you use facts and figures and remain completely professional and non-emotional. Ask their advice on how to handle the situation should it re-occur and indicate that credit should be issued fairly in the future, she adds. Alternatively, she suggests meeting with your colleague directly and addressing your concerns with him or her.

‘These matters should be dealt with in a sensitive manner and it is best to discuss these kinds of issues during an appraisal,’ says Wordon. If you have one coming up soon, be prepared and show positive results to your boss, he says. ‘Indicate how your performance has improved productivity or saved the company money; nothing tells your boss how valuable you are than an increase in efficiency and effectiveness.’