Posted: 27 Jul. 2021 4 min. read

What can Business Chemistry teach us about stress and managing it?

The wellbeing series


Stress has become one of the most talked about workplace topics of our time. And given we’re still in the throes of a global pandemic and many of us are working virtually, it’s not surprising we’re feeling stressed. This summer we’ll be embarking on a wellbeing blog series to share our insights on the topic of stress and provide advice on how to best support each other during these challenging times. 

Pre-COVID, we conducted a large-scale research study of professionals to better understand stress at work and what role Business Chemistry plays in people’s experiences and responses. Intrigued to know more? Read on.

Who’s stressed out?

Interestingly, we found that there were statistically significant differences between how the Business Chemistry types experience and cope with stress. We found that Guardians were the most likely of all the Business Chemistry types to report experiencing stress, closely followed by Integrators. At the same time, Guardians and Integrators reported each type of potentially stressful situation we asked about to be more stressful than the Drivers and Pioneers did.

Given this finding, it’s not surprising that the level of stress under which the Business Chemistry types are most effective also varied. The majority of Pioneers and Drivers reported being most effective when moderately to very stressed. Fewer Guardians and Integrators reported to be most effective at the same levels.

What’s going on here?

I bet you’re wondering what causes these differences in stress levels – we did too. The pace of today’s workplace could be one reason. In general, Guardians prefer to work in a deliberate and methodical way, making sure all details are covered and decisions are carefully considered. Integrators generally prioritise getting input from others and reaching consensus in a group. Both these types also tend toward tried and true approaches, and if not able to avoid risk, then at least carefully assessing it. Although these working styles can bring great value to teams by enhancing quality and cohesiveness, they don’t lend themselves well to a fast-moving working environment. Combing through lots of data and seeking the opinions of others can be tough to maintain with pressing deadlines. On the other hand, Pioneers and Drivers are more likely to thrive when the pace is brisk; they generally like to be kept on their toes and for things to progress with speed and efficiency.

Another possible reason for the differences might relate to how Guardians and Integrators respond to certain situations. For example, these types are more likely to internalise mistakes, whereas Drivers and Pioneers are more likely to brush them off. In addition, Guardians and Integrators may allow the Pioneers or Drivers in the team take charge in group settings, but as a result they may find themselves with less control and being jostled around.

Finally, introversion and extroversion could be a factor in the differences. The Business Chemistry types are broken down into inward- and outward-facing types. Guardians, Dreamers (an Integrator subtype), and Scientists (a Driver subtype Driver) fall into the inward-facing category. Pioneers, Teamers (an Integrator subtype), and Commanders (a Driver subtype) fall into the outward-facing category. The outward-facing types tend to be more adaptable, outgoing, competitive, and energetic; they are also typically less stressed. The differences could be due to physiology as well as preferred ways of working and interacting with others.

So what?

Our study suggests that some people experience more stress at work than others. Knowing one’s Business Chemistry type may help determine who those people are. To avoid the negative consequences of a stressed workforce, teams might want to pay special attention to their inward-facing colleagues, particularly their Guardians and Integrator-Dreamers, to understand what they can do to help reduce their stress levels.

Understanding our differences is a powerful first step for teams looking to improve working relationships and performance during times of stress. Curious to learn more? Read our next post on the coping mechanisms favoured by each Business Chemistry type. 

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Key contact

Jessica Dooley

Jessica Dooley

Senior Manager

Jessica founded and leads Deloitte’s Business Chemistry client practice for the UK and North South Europe member firms. A business behavioural tool designed to help teams communicate and collaborate better for greater success, Business Chemistry is a proprietary self-assessment tool used to support boards, executive, and senior leadership teams across the FTSE, private, and public sectors. She helps teams understand each other’s working styles; hold honest conversations; be better leaders of diverse teams; build plans for enhanced collaboration; team deliberately for a common purpose; and build trust quickly to achieve strategic and organisational goals. The book ‘Business Chemistry: Practical Magic for Crafting Powerful Relationships – a guide to putting cognitive diversity to work’ was released in the US and UK in May 2018.