Why a little stress and anxiety pays dividends

A reasonable level of workplace pressure can lift performance, UNSW research shows.

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​People defined as being more neurotic than average tend to be more critical of themselves and feel greater tension than others. They are prone to negative emotions and become anxious, stressed and frustrated more easily. This can lead to a lower level of self-respect.

Several studies of individual performance in the workplace have connected higher levels of neuroticism to lower levels of performance. But it would be a mistake to interpret this to mean that a stress-free workplace encourages high performance, says Amirali Minbashian​, a senior lecturer in the school of management at UNSW Business School.​

"Up to a moderate level, a state of neuroticism can be a positive. It can motivate you."

According to Minbashian, this particular measure of neuroticism can be defined as "trait neuroticism". In other words, it is a measure of how likely an individual is to feel negative emotions at any time. It is one of many general measures of personality.

"Because of these structural differences, some people tend to experience higher anxiety than others. The implication has been that if you're going to select people for a work environment, there is a relationship that suggests the lower the person is on the neuroticism scale, the better they will perform. That is the case with trait neuroticism."

Read the full article on the BusinessThink website.