Project Management

Is Pressure Undermining Your Team’s Collaboration?

Dr. Heidi K. Gardner and Ivan A. Matviak

When people refer to “pressure,” what usually comes to mind is time pressure—that is, deadlines. But that’s not always the underlying issue. There are plenty of circumstances in which a team has most or all the time and resources it needs, and still faces unrelenting pressure from one or more directions—including from within. And when pressure is not well managed, it usually puts team dynamics at risk.

It’s not just the pressures growing out of a dramatic turn of events that can lead to dysfunctional behaviors. So too can the kinds of performance pressures that arise in everyday work—for example, when the team is working on an important project, with lots of people inside and outside the company watching and counting on a great outcome. Or how about that situation in which an anxious new boss is scrutinizing the team’s every move, and effectively transmitting that anxiety to the team? Or those times when a key client is demanding an immediate fix to a defective product?

If even one person on the team feels like the project may make-or-break for them, personally—a team leader coming up for promotion, for example—that individual’s behaviors can destabilize the team and destroy the prospects for smart collaboration. True, people may be operating with the best of intentions, trying to help the team through this difficult pressure point. But good intentions aren’t enough, and …

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"I don't like work - no man does - but I like what is in the work - the chance to find yourself."

- Joseph Conrad