I remember my first DISC training session way way back. Pre-computers. Yeah – you read that right. It was a while ago. I reviewed it a bit before writing this post and it has changed over the years.

DISC is an acronym for an assessment introduced by American psychologist Dr. William Marston in the late 1920s. He developed a personality model based on the ideas of four main behavioral traits he referred to as Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Compliance. Once you take the assessment, you will receive a profile report. Your profile report shows your natural basic personality style (the real you) as well as your adapted environmental personality style that you exhibit in your environment (what others tend to see). The goal was to understand your style and how your style interacts with other styles giving you insight into how best to engage with people based on their DISC styles.

Not to get into the sausage-making related to DISC, but the one thing that stood out to me was the concept that your personality/approach to things can change based on your environment, your role in the engagement, and your level of stress.

Under stress, we revert to our core trait (according to the DISC experts.) Now, you may have heard gurus and life coaches tell you that pressure is needed to create diamonds. It may. But it also creates unwanted behaviors. Stress puts our brain in a bad place, and we start to go into “protection mode.” Think fight or flight.

I thought of that as I was thinking about employee engagement and employee and sales performance.

Pressure Changes People

2020/2021 have heaped stress on everyone. We are all operating under a ridiculous level of stress. This is more than “will my boss be mad at me” stress. It is “will my family and I survive?”

That’s pro-level stress.

What that screams to me as a manager is none of my reports, or teammates I rely on, are behaving like they would in normal times. They are probably reaching down to the more basic responses. And that may present some unwanted outcomes. 

Your teams may be having issues not because the work is hard, or the supply chain is down, or their uncle loves Biden (or Trump.)

Your teams are having issues because they are working under stress trying to survive.

Give them a break.

Take the time to connect and talk with them about their stress. Let them know you know and understand. You’re in that same boat. Remind them.

Companies Are Under Stress Too

Companies are fighting the same issues.

When a company is under stress it reacts in the same manner. It looks for ways to reduce their stress which, unfortunately, typically means layoffs, cutbacks, etc., to bolster their financial position. That is the ultimate measure of company health, right?

I can’t fix all the problems of the world, but I can make sure my people know I know.

Have the Conversation

Both with the “company” (execs with mahogany desks) and with your employees (doers with cubicles.)

Talk about your stress, their stress and the company stress.

And know, above all, this is not normal and won’t be this way forever.

I hope.

Go have 1:1 meetings to destress your team.