Navigate A High-Pressure Workplace: 6 Well Guarded Secrets

How you navigate a high-pressure workplace can make or break your career. How many times have you come across a requirement to “be good under pressure”? Or maybe it’s only in my field? The problem with this type of work environment is that it came become very stressful very quickly. Having worked in really high-pressure environments, I had to learn how to fend for myself. So here are my 6 secrets that will help you navigate a high-pressure workplace to ensure it doesn’t make you insane.   

The best way to handle pressure in the workplace is to stay focused on the work at hand

In this type of environment, the priority is to achieve. So get your head down and get the work done.  This is how you will get noticed and what you will be rewarded for.

The opportunity in a role like this is that you will have to learn very quickly how to be efficient and productive. Where do you think I got all of these tips on efficiency from?!   

Avoid gossip

First, gossiping is a waste of time and you don’t have any spare time. Second, this could seriously harm your professional reputation long term.

So go back to tip number1! Get your head down and crack on with your work. If you need to vent, speak to your non-work friends, your partner or your mum. Not your colleagues.

Have an ally or two

It’s good to have friends you can rely on when you are working in a tough place. You need someone you can bounce off ideas on the days where everything is going too fast, and you need a sounding board.

You also need someone who can help you and whom you can help when working on difficult projects. Someone who will cover work for you if you have a personal emergency. And you will of course reciprocate.    

Ideally you also need an ally who was there before you and you can show you the ropes so you can accelerate your development.

Never underestimate the importance of having a strong network at work. You never know when it will come handy.  

Have an exit strategy from your high-pressure workplace

This is VERY important for your mental health. High-pressure environments can drain your energy and bring down very quickly if you are not careful. But if you know you are not there for long, it won’t impact you as much.    

In fact, I have a friend in my profession who used to only take contracts, up to 18 months. She found this was a brilliant way to acquire new skills, as she kept changing roles and learning something new every time. But it also protected her mental health. She found these places utterly depressing as people were there for life and the environments lacked dynamism. By changing role every year or so, she knew she didn’t belong and wouldn’t stay and felt much happier as a result.

Know why you are taking on the job

Be clear on what it is that you want to achieve and be ready to move on once you have. Did you join because you want to acquire certain skills? Was this a way to join a particular industry or get more responsibilities?

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Decide how long you are going to stay in the role

Be very specific and add a reminder in your diary (your personal one, not your work one of course!!), so that you know when you need to start job-hunting.


Look after yourself

Obviously, you should always look after yourself! If you are on this blog, you know that. But if you are to navigate a high-pressure workplace and stay happy, you need extra resources. My favourite self-care hacks:

  • Meditate. 5 minutes a day is enough. What matters is consistency.
  • Exercise a few times a week. It will help clear your head and give you perspective as well as refill your happy hormones tank.
  • Keep alcohol consumption to a minimum – the last thing you want to do is have a glass of wine every evening to comfort you because you had a tough day at work. This will impact your sleep, your energy and your mood fast. Believe me, I did it for years.     
  • Make sure you have fun outside of work. Spending time with uplifting friends (please note the qualifier), practice a hobby… Just do something that makes you happy on a regular basis. It will help you balance the tough days at work.
  • Get plenty of sleep – this is key to having all the energy you need to work hard.
  • Rest – factor in rest during your week and at the weekend. I mean, actually block time in your diary to rest. If you don’t, your body will tell you soon enough and you’ll have to cancel a friend so you might as well factor that in from the start.  

Remember you have a choice and keep smiling

When times are hard, it is important to remember that you always have a choice. You are always free to leave if this pressure gets too much. Remember the story of me working in the supermarket? Don’t go there. Don’t let work turn you into a victim.

Own your choice. You are here for a reason. When working here no longer serves you, you just hand out your notice. Done. You are in charge of your life. You write the story.

6 Well Guarded Secrets To Navigate A High-Pressure Workplace – key take aways

  1. Stay focused
  2. Don’t gossip
  3. Find allies
  4. Work out your exit strategy
  5. Make self-care a priority
  6. Remember you have a choice

Try these simple hacks and let me know how you get on

Do you have other tips on how to navigate a high-pressure workplace by your colleagues? What works well for you? I’d love to hear your stories. Let me know in the comments.

Further resources

The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology that Fuel Success and Performance at Work by Shawn Achor

This article is part of the series Happier At Work, which you can find here.

And remember, happiness is a choice, and you are in charge!

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