Do Your Employees Have a High Frustration Tolerance?

In a recent article by PSP Principal Psychologist, Dr. Nicole Scott, we highlighted the elevated stress and pressure that exists in organizations today, which is leading to historical levels of employee burnout and turnover. As with most complex problems, there rarely is a “silver bullet” solution, but rather multiple levers that must be pulled. Indeed, many organizations could benefit from examining current policies to ensure alignment with the constraints that exist in today’s workplace. Leaders could do more to minimize pressures on their teams. Educational sessions can be offered to provide employees with practical techniques to better cope with the increased stress they are experiencing in the workplace.

In addition, a relatively simple and practical approach is to hire people who naturally are better able to function effectively amidst pressure, crisis, and confusion. What you want to look for are applicants who have higher levels of “Frustration Tolerance,” which can be defined as “The ability to respond to pressures and deadlines in a levelheaded and even-tempered fashion.” 

Employee Frustration Tolerance

Employees with a high tolerance for frustration can stick with tasks despite setbacks, which enable them to achieve more and feel good about their accomplishments. People lower in frustration tolerance are more likely to give up when the going gets tough, and therefore achieve less. Over time, the feelings associated with failing can lead to stress and burnout. While not exhaustive, below are some common signs of low frustration tolerance.

  • Procrastinate in attempting difficult or “boring” tasks
  • Giving up quickly when facing a challenge or obstacle
  • Impulsively attempting a “quick fix” for problems rather than thoughtfully identifying options and methodically implementing a solution
  • Frequent feelings of anger or irritability about typical, everyday sources of stress (e.g., waiting in line at the grocery store)
  • Moodiness and impatience

Without a sufficient level of frustration tolerance, one is less likely to demonstrate the resilience, tenacity, and grit that are associated with high levels of performance and achievement. This is especially critical during times of increased stress and pressure. Further, for people in leadership roles, a lack of frustration tolerance can lead to poor decisions, mistreatment of team members, and low employee engagement. Finally, for employees in customer-facing roles, a lack of composure can have a direct negative impact on the customer experience.

Measuring Employee Stress

The good news is that frustration tolerance can easily be measured during the pre-hire process using validated personality tests. Many of these tests can be completed in less than 30 minutes and can provide insights that far outweigh the investment. Stress tolerance can also be assessed by using behavioral interviews where applicants are asked to share examples of how they have handled setbacks and frustration at work in the past. The key here is to probe for specific examples, the applicant’s actions, and the result of those actions.

If frustration tolerance is a key factor in job success, why not measure it before making that hiring decision?  PSP Metrics customizes tools that enable hiring managers to know an applicant’s ability to handle job pressure on a regular basis before making the hiring decision. Get started with us today!

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