Stress!! We all react differently to stressors in life, and even to hearing the word stress. We have been bombarded over the past two years with references to “the stress of the pandemic”. What does that mean for each of us? Have we all interpreted the same situations as stressful? Has our reaction been the same? Both anecdotal input as well as research indicate that experienced pandemic stress levels vary by individual.
Several researchers set out to determine if our unique personality type can influence how we respond to pandemic stress. You won’t be surprised to hear that our personality absolutely impacts how we have responded to pandemic stress. While this blog isn’t a review of the research on this topic, it is interesting to note a few aspects of personality that are impactful. Spoiler alert – the traits measured on the TalentQuest Behavioral Assessment can help to provide some insight to how you may react to pandemic stress.
Your unique personality influences how you respond to the stress and to the isolation of the pandemic restrictions. Taking a look at the five broad personality factors (measured by the TalentQuest behavioral assessment) provides some insight into individual differences in response to pandemic stress. Keep in mind that these traits are all measured on a continuum, so we all experience each of them to a varying level of degree.
Extraversion – Introversion
The extraversion – introversion scale provides insight into one’s social needs. Social interactions were clearly impacted during the pandemic. Given the high activity and social stimulation needs of strong extraverts, they may have experienced higher levels of distress once their ability to socialize was removed. Jason Moser, a psychologist at Michigan State University, says that “It does seem like introverts would find a good ‘fit’ in this kind of social distancing world.” Many introverts joked that they had been training for lockdowns their entire lives! When most organizations needed employees to work from home, the reduction in social interaction may be a welcome reprieve for some but if you had a more extraverted employee, the isolation may have caused an increase in stress for them.
Expedient – Conscientious
Highly conscientiousness individuals value orderliness and are more likely to follow directions. They, therefore, have been more likely to comply with the recommendations regarding hygiene and social distancing. It is safe to assume that highly conscientious individuals have found comfort in safety protocols and their ability to comply has given them a sense of control – contributing to reduced stress.
Steady – Vigilant
A higher level of vigilance can be associated with a greater perception of threat level, which could have an impact on stress level. These individuals may also experience negative emotions more intensely and over a longer period of time. As the level of health concerns or pandemic restrictions increased, the stress levels would likely have increased as well.
Personality is a complex topic and individual reactions are impacted by a multitude of factors. However, self-awareness is important for driving, and making adjustments, to our behavior. This relates both to our own personal response to stressors as well as to understanding how others around us may be feeling. As a manager, understanding your team’s unique traits can help bolster your ability to be more empathetic. Although there is not a one-size-fits-all solution, making modifications to personalize your management style can help reduce stress among your team – like regular, informal, check-ins. Small gestures that demonstrate you understand will positively impact trust and contribute to a decrease stress levels.