Handling high-pressure work environments with confidence and grace while continuing to perform well, serves beneficial in any profession. However, not all can master this easily.
Generally, employees in a position of high power tend to perform better under pressure, while those with less power perform worse. A new study has revealed that when the stakes are high, people in positions of low power may perform better by using self-affirmations to boost their confidence.
Lead researcher Sonia Kang said, "Most people have experienced a time in their lives when they are not performing up to their potential and they take a test or have a performance review at work, but something holds them back and performance in these situations is closely related to how we are expected to behave."
Researchers conducted three experiments to measure performance in pressure-filled situations. When participants were in a position of high power, they tended to perform better under pressure, while those with less power performed worse.
During the first experiment, 134 participants (60% women) were assigned in same-sex pairs to portray a recruiter or job candidate in a competitive negotiation involving the setting of salary, vacation time and other job benefits. To increase the pressure, half of the paired participants were told the negotiation was an accurate gauge of their negotiating skills. While, participants in the low-pressure situation were told the exercise would teach them negotiation concepts and was not an accurate gauge of their negotiating abilities.
In another experiment, 60 male MBA students were paired together as the buyer or seller of a biotechnology plant. Researchers found that the sellers, who were in a position of power, were more assertive under pressure and negotiated a higher selling price, while the buyers performed worse under pressure.
The third experiment used the same biotechnology plant exercise with 88 MBA students (33 male pairs and 11 female pairs), but all participants were told the exercise would gauge their negotiating skills to raise the stakes. Half of the participants wrote for five minutes about their most important negotiating skill before the negotiation, while the remaining half wrote about their least important negotiating skill. Buyers who completed the positive self-affirmation task performed significantly better in negotiating a lower sale price for the biotechnology plant, effectively reducing the power differences between the buyer and seller.
The study appears online in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin