To Thrive or Survive – Working Under Pressure

Have you ever heard someone say that they “work best under pressure”? It sounds like such a positive thing to say about your work habits. But, what if instead of “working best under pressure” they mean that they work only when under pressure, or that they even require pressure to get any work done at all?

Suddenly, it doesn’t sound like such a great way to describe yourself. Do you want people to get the impression that they need to pressure you in order to get you to increase your productivity? If so, get ready for an unnecessarily stressful work experience.

Instead of claiming to “work best under pressure”, consider the opposite: Present yourself as a “self-starter” who needs no pressure, prodding, babysitting, or queuing of any kind to get their work done. The term “self-starter” is just as clichéd, but at least it’s not suggesting to your peers that they have to nag you nonstop to get your best efforts.

Now if you truly do thrive under pressure, then by all means seek it out. But if not, do yourself a favor and find a tactful way to say, “I can handle pressure, but I don’t require it to excel.”

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Peter is Vice President of Digital Marketing at an investment holdings company in Washington DC and Co-Founder at True North.


  1. Thera on the 2nd June

    I like saying that “I work fine under pressure” instead of “best under pressure” for that exact reason indeed: it sounds too much like “I can only work if being pressed into it”, which is neither true, neither what I mean to convey.

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