fbpx Skip to content

Don’t Be That Manager: High-Pressure

Learn how to manage stress to become a high-performance manager.

Many personal trainers are promoted to manager or director solely on the basis of their success as a trainer and not necessarily because of their management skills. Now it’s your turn: You are the new personal training manager. You’re finding out how different being the manager is from working with clients on the floor.

This series explores common managerial types and how they affect you, your staff and your business. You will learn how you can make better choices to ensure you are not that manager! This fifth installment looks at the “high-pressure manager” and builds on the last four installments: the “invisible manager,” the “micromanager,” the “yes manager” and the “high-turnover manager.”

Behind the High-Pressure Manager

Every manager experiences pressure—from tight deadlines to aggressive goals to high performance expectations. Beyond the typical job stresses, pressure can come from one’s peers and from one’s personal life.

While the fitness facility certainly isn’t a high-school environment, social pressures from one’s peer group are alive and kicking and can come from above or below on the organizational chart. You may face peer pressure from your own staff, as well as from upper management. Just like high school, conformity is a big stake.

Think back to high school, when you wanted to get a tattoo just because your friend did. Now fast-forward to your fitness facility today. What examples of peer pressure do you encounter? To increase sales, your staff might feel pressured to offer popular high-intensity workouts instead of corrective exercise programming. You might conform to the behaviors and attitudes of your superiors—for example, creating a closed-door policy or using threats and negative consequences to motivate your staff.

Personal pressure varies depending on whether your personality is type A or type B. Type A’s hallmark characteristics include being time-urgent, expressing aggressiveness and being strongly competitive and achievement-oriented. Making or beating a goal is paramount for a type A. Type B is characterized by having moderate drive, being cooperative and focusing on quality over quantity. These personality types will naturally influence your work style and your personal and professional interactions. Which type are you?

The high-pressure manager embodies a combination of tensions that negatively impact staff, clients and business. When not well managed, these pressures may erupt like a volcano. In nature, very high pressure can turn coal into a diamond. This is not the case with job performance. Let’s look at the story of personal trainer “Jackie” to better understand the dynamics and influence of the high-pressure manager throughout the work chain.

High-Pressure Consequences

Pressured Staff. Jackie’s muscles tense and her heartbeat quickens as she sits down in the personal training manager’s office for her monthly sales meeting. Jackie’s manager interrogates her, demanding an explanation for her lack of client conversions and her slump in training frequency. The manager threatens that if Jackie doesn’t pick up hours and conversions she will lose her health insurance and not be given any more complimentary sessions. The manager provides no motivation, analysis or support to help Jackie improve. Jackie is paralyzed by the barrage of negativity.

Pressured Clients. With what feels like the weight of the world on her shoulders, Jackie morphs from the once happy-go-lucky trainer into someone who is pushy and uncharacteristically persistent. She presses harder on clients to add a weekly workout, and she falsely promises new clients quick results to persuade them to buy large packages. Jackie’s desperation and frustration permeate all her interactions.

Pressured Business. As the pressure continues to mount, Jackie’s productivity sinks to new lows. Her numbers take a hit because she has been sick on and off for 2 weeks. This cascade of events puts pressure on the business and the personal training manager. Jackie’s absenteeism decreases her training hours. This leads to unhappy customers and decreased revenue. The manager may have to spend time alerting staff and clients to Jackie’s absence or finding a replacement.

As you can see, the above scenario is one worth avoiding if possible. It’s up to you as manager to lead with comfort and ease instead of chaos and distress.

High Performance, Not High Pressure

It’s impossible to completely eliminate pressure from your work life. While not all pressure is negative—at lower levels it can even be beneficial—it’s important to manage stress so that instead of being “high pressure” you become “high performance.”

The first step is awareness. Are you a high-pressure manager? Take the sidebar quiz “Are You a High-Pressure Manager?” below to see if you have a tendency to use this management style. If you answer yes to three or more of the questions in that sidebar, you are pressured and you tend to apply pressure to others.

After you’ve learned ways to manage stress (see the sidebar “Stress Management Techniques” below), you can learn how to navigate high-pressure situations. You can’t avoid the stressor, but you may be able to change your reaction by adapting or accepting rather than fighting. Here are three steps to help you become aware of and deal with workplace pressure:

  1. Express yourself. Don’t bottle things up until you explode. Learn to communicate promptly and professionally.
  2. Assert yourself. Be active rather than passive.
  3. Let go. Focus on the things you can control.

Becoming High-Performance

Over the life of this series we have looked at five managerial types: “high-pressure manager,” “invisible manager,” “micro manager,” “yes manager” and “high-turnover manager.” We have looked at management from the point of view of what doesn’t work, with viable solutions. Sometimes failure is a step toward success, especially if you learn from mistakes. Here’s to learning from the mistakes presented in this series and becoming a high-performance personal training manager!

Are You a High-Pressure Manager?

Awareness is the first step in knowing what your management style is. Explore how you interact with staff by answering the following:

  1. When reviewing an employee’s job performance, do you typically think “It isn’t enough”?
  2. How do you translate pressure from above? When you receive a directive from management, do you typically put more pressure on your staff?
  3. What is the pace of your work environment? Is it highly charged, making down-time difficult to find?
  4. Do you tend to raise your voice at people? This includes management, co-workers and clients.
  5. After a day’s work, do you have difficulty easing into the evening and going to sleep?
Stress Management Techniques

Stress affects both the mind and the body. Here are some quick fixes to diffuse the short-term pressure:

Lance Breger, MS

Lance J. Breger, MS, is a fitness and wellness consultant and a 2010 IDEA Program Director of the Year finalist. He is the president of Infinity Wellness Foundation, a nonprofit organization that delivers its WELLKIDS program to students and teachers in the Washington, DC, public school system. Breger is also the head private trainer at MINT in Washington, DC.

Related Articles