Positional Pressure — Finding Someone Who Can Handle the Heat

There’s no way around it, every position contains some degree of pressure. Now despite this truth, most company’s don’t prioritize these circumstances until the employee is facing them. When this happens, the employee is not prepared and the situation becomes sink or swim. This should be unacceptable, as the outcome(s) can cost your company severely (lost clients, bad press, frustrated employee(s), etc).

That is why hiring someone capable of thriving despite the stress, is absolutely critical. To do that, you have to attempt to spot the pressure points before you even begin searching for candidates.

Sources of Stress

You’ll find that work-related stress falls into one of two categories: Man Made Fears or Positionally Created Pressures. Essentially, the hire will mentally put the burden on him/herself or the burden will appear from constraints of the job itself.

Man Made Fears

I’ll tell you right off the bat, finding and defining all the Man Made Fears will be impossible. Everyone is different, which means reactions to situations will vary. Additionally, Man Made Fears are in the person’s head or part of his/her belief system, which innately makes them harder to correct. Regardless, it’s still worth the time because the more you understand the hardships faced by your employee, the easier it is to cultivate remedies for the issues.

Another advantage of diagnosing these cerebral strains, prior to the candidate search, is your ability to develop screening practices that focuses on eliminating incapable candidates. This gives you the best chance to hire a person capable of prospering in these circumstances. Remember, it’s better to find out someone that lacks the capacity to handle certain aspects of the job during the interview process than discovering it after they’ve been on the job for 6 months with something important on the line.

To make this task a little easier, here’s a list of common Man Made Fears …


  • Verbal Presentations
  • Phone Conversations
  • Public Speaking


  • Layout — Open vs. Cubicle
  • Work Space — Office, Remotely, or Mixed
  • Noise

People Interactions

  • Amount of Group and Independent Work
  • Number of Subordinates
  • Superior’s Management Style

Office Hours

  • Frequency of Overtime
  • Work Related Travel
  • Schedule Flexibility

The Future

  • Ability to Move Up (Better Title / Salary)
  • Job Security
  • Risk of Injury

Now these are not all the Man Made Fears out there, but they are common among employees. It’s also important to note that some will be easier to define. The hire will either work in the office, at home or have a combo of the two — easy. Superior’s Management Style is slightly more intricate as there are several key components that are needed in order to create a clear definition. (I recommend keeping your eyes open for future articles, where I’ll be showing you how to define these situations and highlight the stressful aspects of each.)

Positionally Created Stresses

Now on the other side of the pressure coin are these Positionally Created Stresses. These are typically key responsibilities of the position and are identify as pass or fail situations. Here are a few common examples…

Time / Deadlines

  • Project Completion
  • Delivery Windows
  • Ensuring Operations Stay on Schedule

Performance Goals / Actions

  • Sale Quotas
  • Customer Satisfaction Rating
  • Firing Staff


  • Operating Complex Machinery
  • Continually Staying Up-to-Date with Changing Software
  • Competing Against Technology

Shortage of Staff

  • Handling Multiple Assignments
  • Delegating Tasks to Understaffed Team
  • Keeping Understaffed Team Motivated


  • Spending within Budget
  • Determining the Monetary Affects of Buying New Equipment vs. Repairing
  • Negotiating Prices

Just like the previous list, these are not all the Positionally Created Stresses out there, but they are prevalent. Also, despite being tension filled scenarios, you can put in procedures to reduce mistakes or make someone more efficient at any one of these tasks. Again, by defining it early, you can avoid these added measures, which cost time and money, and focus on hiring candidates capable of handling the demand of the position.

Where to Begin

Ultimately, you’re going to end up with a list of about 8–15 pressure points that are going to impact this position and the person that works in it. But first I want you to gather as many Positionally Created Stresses and Man Made Fears as you can for this particular role. You’re also going to want to start with Positionally Created Stresses because they’ll often reveal the most crucial Man Made Fears.

Let’s look at “Shortage of Staff” for example. You’ll see that this situation often results in the employee handling multiple assignments at once (Positionally Created Stress), which forces them to work overtime, and may increase the likelihood of injury (Man Made Fears). Additionally, you can look at the management style of this position’s superior because he/she will also be dealing with the shortage. Together, these all play a role in the stress felt by the employee, and truly has an impact on their overall performance.

The Setup

After creating a list of stresses for this position, you’re going to want to prioritize it. This can be achieved by creating a simple chart, where the vertical line represents the frequency of an event, and the horizontal line represents the segment of the business most impacted by the outcome of the event.

To give you something to reference, here’s what my ranges look like…

Positionally Created Stresses — Deciding What to Focus On

After building this graph, take your list of Positionally Created Stresses and plot them accordingly. Once organized, you can realistically see which task(s) carry the greatest burden. I recommend selecting…

  • 4 to 5 of the most impactful situations (affects the most people)
  • 2 or 3 tasks that are strictly going to impact this hire’s role (positional)

This gives you a solid 6 to 8 pressure points that you can focus on during the screening process. If several pressure points are close, you should choose the options that occur most frequently.

Now it’s important you don’t completely forget about the remainder of the list, as they can be used as a tiebreaker between several excellent candidates.

Side Note: If you find a great person, but they’re lacking in an area or two, you don’t have to discard them. Look to see if you have systems in place that can help them get over the hurdle. You never want to throw away talent just because it’s not fully developed. This, of course, is a gut call. Just make sure it’s not costing more to train this individual than what it’s worth.

Man Made Fears — Deciding What to Focus On

Once the top Positionally Created Stresses are uncovered, it’s time to determine which Man Made Fears are most crucial. To do this, you have to break down your list of Man Made Fears into two categories — Task Related Angst and Speculative Anxiety Points.

Task Related Angst, is any Man Made Fear that’s attached to a responsibility. An example would be, public speaking for positions that require the hire to make product presentations to clients. On the other hand, Speculative Anxiety Points can’t be tied to any specific task at all. An example would be someone’s fear of no upward mobility (larger salary, higher ranking title, etc.).

Of the two, Task Related Angst will be the easiest to determine because you simply place these pressure points next to their corresponding Positionally Created Stressor on the graph you just created. So for example, public speaking would be placed next to the Positionally Created Stress, product presentations.

Side Note: I understand this takes up a lot of space, so I recommend using a white board for these initially, and then transcribing to a savable document. This is easily done as you can transform everything into a bullet list with sub-bullets. This is valuable as you can easily correct mistakes (underestimations of a pressure point) and use it as a template for similar positions. I also take picture of the white board in case I need a visual aid.

After plotting these Task Related Angst, I recommend focusing on the ones that…

  • are attached to the 3–5 most frequently done tasks (Regardless of population impacted)
  • repeats across several tasks (Public Speaking — Client Meetings, Annual Reports, Trade Shows)
  • connect to your top 3 Positionally Created Stresses

The order of this list, is how you should be prioritizing these pressure points. The scenarios that occur again and again are going to take the biggest toll on a person’s psyche. You need someone that can mentally stand up to these situations day in and day out. Next, you have Task Related Angst that maybe less frequent but show up in many different tasks. This naturally impacts several assignment, and the many people involved. This is equally true for the pressure points connected to the top 3 Positionally Created Stresses.

Once prioritized, you can develop processes to screen candidates, such as using specifically asked behavioral questions. As I said earlier, Man Made Fears are the hardest to correct. If you can identify someone who stresses in this situations, prior to hiring them, you’ve saved the company money, the hiring team headaches, and that person a lot of anxiety. That’s the value in doing all of this.

Speculative Anixety Points are not tied to any 1 task. In fact, they’re mostly connected to the future. Will I get a raise? What happens if I get injured? What will a merger mean for my position? Innately, these are difficult to identify. People are also in different stages in life, so they care about different things. I was once a young millennial, who cared about time off. Now I’m focused on healthcare for my family. So how do you prioritize this list? How do we know what’s going to matter to this hire?

The unfortunate reality is, you’re never going to know what’s going to matter to the hire. Positions can be filled by people from all different situations at any age, which makes it impossible to predict the Speculative Anxiety Points they’ll have. Because of this you need to take your list, and rank them in order of hardest for the company to resolve to the easiest. This gives you lines in the sand that you know you cannot cross. Ultimately, this helps both you and the candidates in the long run, since these are some of the main reasons a person leaves a company.

The good thing about this list is that you only have to make one. You can use this across roles, as these are universal from position to position, regardless of rank. When new policies come into place or more funds are allocated, you can quickly update this list and rearrange accordingly.

Now, despite being difficult to predict, there are methods that can help you discover which Speculative Anxiety Points your company can resolve or is willing to resolve. One of the most powerful procedures is defining your culture. This helps because not all situations can be solved with financial backing. Your company may simply refuse based on certain beliefs. Knowing your culture will make that clear.

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