Mixing Emotional Intelligence with Some Old Clichés. Blog by performance psychologist Mike Duckett

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 9th August 2017

In his latest blog, performance psychologist, Mike Duckett explains what to do when someone becomes stressed by the pressure of the job.

Recently a client of mine referred to the kitchen as being a very stressful place (it’s a very large kitchen with many staff). It was as though the stress virus was lurking on the surfaces and in the storage rooms; couldn’t be deep cleaned and was ready to infect people. In fact, he saw his job itself as "a very stressful position"; as almost a focal point for stress.

stressed chefs
Exhausted team of chefs

This thought took me back once again to Daniel Goldman’s Emotional Intelligence framework, referred to in the previous two blogs, particularly the crucial skill of managing your own emotional state.

It's important to remember there is a distinction between pressure and stress.


Pressure can come from external sources, such as the demands of the job; the culture (punishing failure etc); leadership style (e.g. aggressive and bullying). It can also arise internally as when someone puts a lot of pressure on themselves by setting high goals for achievement

None of these pressures need become stressful. Indeed, many high performers tell you they thrive on pressure and it helps raise their performance. 


Stress is not something 'out there' that is infectious but is one person's internal reaction to the external pressures. We don't need to go over the long list of well documented ill effects of stress on the body, the mind and therefore, performance.

So what are the choices for intervention if someone is becoming stressed by the pressures of the job?

External Change

You can, of course, where possible take the pressure out of the situation through focusing on the external factors through changes in:

  • Business strategy and goals
  • Job design
  • Working environment

So, to coin a phrase, “if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen” – that’s one way of changing the external pressure!

Internal Change

On the other hand, there is another very apt saying, "if you can't change the situation, then change your reaction to it". Of course, that's easier said than done but it is often the basis of the coaching work I do. In the case of feeling stressed at work can you become aware of what exactly it is you are reacting to with the stress response. Then, although every individual's triggers and thoughts and bodily responses and behaviour will be different, some likely areas of experience to explore may be:

  • What meaning do you personally make of the signals you are reacting to? (What do you think it means?)
  • What is happening to your body? - becoming aware of heart rate, sweating ete.How are you behaving as a result?
  • How are you behaving as a result?
  • What would you like to have happen instead of this response?
  • Etc.

This is in fact the kind of work my client and I did but it's worth pointing out that at some point he began to think about whether his leadership style might be part of the problem for others. In other words, he realised that although there are external situational pressures on him – for example his CEO's demands - he's part of the external situation for others.  

Leadership and Stress

So, having started with the EI skill of managing your own internal state (Personal Competence), remember that the emotional competence of the stars – as Goldman refers to them – also has the flip side of Social Competence and to coin a third phrase (the final one!), “no man is an island” means that you will also be part of someone else’s external environment. 

With that in mind I’m guessing you’d rather “be part of the solution than the problem”? Sorry but I think another cliché just crept in!

Mike Duckett
Mike Duckett

Mike Duckett has a degree in psychology and is a member of the Occupational Psychology division, the Sports Psychology division & the Coaching Psychology Special Group of the British Psychological Society. He holds a diploma in Hypnotherapy & Cognitive therapy and is a certified NLP coach.

With over 20 years experience he was one of the pioneers of applying performance psychology to coach people in the hospitality industry to get the best from themselves, in areas such as creativity; leadership; optimism etc.

As a certified NLP Coach and ANLP Accredited Master Practitioner, Mike has clients ranging from world renowned chefs, restaurateurs & sommeliers to up and coming staff in both the kitchen and front of house. You can see more of Mike's blogs atcoachforsuccess.wordpress.com

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 9th August 2017

Mixing Emotional Intelligence with Some Old Clichés. Blog by performance psychologist Mike Duckett