Posted: 11 Jul. 2016 5 min. read

Business Chemistry do’s and don’ts during times of stress

A primary tenet of Business Chemistry is that we can strengthen our working relationships by understanding how others are similar to and different from us. One important difference between Business Chemistry types is that we don’t all respond to workplace stressors in the same way. Keep the following in mind when working with a diverse team:

  • A particular event may not feel stressful to you, but a team member, your boss, or your client may feel differently. Understanding these differences can help you respond appropriately, which may be particularly important in the case of a Pioneer or Driver (who typically experience less stress) working with a Guardian or Integrator (who typically experience more).
  • Leaders hoping to get the most from their teams may want to consider how to reduce stress levels for those who feel less effective under such conditions, most notably Guardians and Integrators. Creating an environment where all types can thrive is likely to raise the performance level of the whole team.
  • Not everyone uses the same strategies for coping with stress. Knowing how others prefer to cope can help team members support each other when stress levels are high.
  • Particularly when it’s not possible to reduce stress, shifting one’s mindset or approach to stress can be a powerful way to alter the effects it has on people and their performance; a mindset shift can even transform stress from a curse into an opportunity.

To work with the various Business Chemistry types during times of stress, consider the following do’s, don’ts, and prompts to help people make a mindset shift…


  • Do: Leave time and space for the Guardians’ own methods of coping. Under stress, Guardians are the type most likely to back-up and do more groundwork (e.g., getting more information, organizing) before moving to action. Practice patience.
  • Do: Clarify expectations. Guardians are the most likely type to say they need clear expectations to thrive. This need may be heightened during times of stress.
  • Don’t: Apply more pressure. A sense of urgency causes more stress for Guardians than for other types. When possible, release pressure instead.
  • Don’t: Assume that Guardians can’t succeed in high-stress environments. While they may experience more stress than other types, a good number of them (the majority) say they’re stressed only rarely to sometimes. And many of them also say they’re effective under stress.
  • Mindset shift: Challenge a Guardian to reframe or relabel their feelings of stress as excitement or investment.


  • Do: Explore whether the Integrators you’re working with are more internally-focused (I-Dreamers) or externally-focused (I-Teamers). Dreamers are particularly likely to experience higher levels of stress and may need extra support in reducing or managing it.
  • Do: Help Integrators see that what they’re doing makes a difference. Integrators are the most likely type to say they thrive when they have a sense their work matters, and this may help keep them centered during times of stress.
  • Don’t: Assume Integrators will automatically reach out for support in times of stress. We’ve found that interpersonal strategies, like asking for help or talking about feelings, are among the least common ways of coping—even for Integrators. Proactively offer support instead.
  • Don’t: Think a stressful situation excuses bad behavior. An Integrator under stress isn’t any more likely to respond well to a lack of diplomacy than they are in calmer times. In fact, they may experience it as even more insensitive during times of stress.
  • Mindset shift: Encourage an Integrator to think about how the stress they’re enduring is making a positive difference for other people, or, how they can reach out to proactively support others during stressful times.


  • Do: Encourage Drivers to stay flexible during times of stress. Even during normal times, Drivers can be accused of having tunnel vision, and stress can narrow our focus. Remind Drivers that options exist and context matters.
  • Do: Help Drivers realize that a conflict or disagreement may not seem like a big deal to them, but can raise stress levels for others. More than ever, during times of stress it’s important to remember how one’s behaviors can impact others.
  • Don’t: Be afraid to push them a bit. More than any other type, Drivers say they thrive when faced with challenging tasks.
  • Don’t: Assume Drivers don’t get stressed. In particular, the more internally-focused Drivers (D-Scientists) report more stress than Pioneers, externally-focused Drivers (D-Commanders), and even externally-focused Integrators (I-Teamers).
  • Mindset shift: Ask a Driver how stress can provide fuel for raising their level of performance, or, encourage them to think back to the personal resources that have gotten them through previous stressful times.


  • Do: Remind Pioneers that while they may be feeling calm, others may be experiencing heightened levels of stress—they may benefit from adjusting their approach accordingly.
  • Do: Make space for Pioneers’ varied ways of coping with stress—they use more methods overall than the other types, and some of those methods (e.g., socializing, exercising) may look less than productive to you, but they might be helping a Pioneer manage the stress.
  • Don’t: Assume there are no upper limits to the amount of stress a Pioneer can handle. Too much stress, for too long of a period, can have negative effects, even for a Pioneer.
  • Don’t: Expect a Pioneer under stress to act like a Pioneer who’s not under stress. Our research suggests that Pioneers change more during stressful times than other types—possibly becoming less imaginative, exploratory, optimistic, and collaborative, and more practical, conventional, and risk-averse. Keep stress in check to get their most Pioneering approach.
  • Mindset shift: Urge a Pioneer to think about how a stressful experience may contribute to their personal growth.


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Suzanne Vickberg (aka Dr. Suz)

Suzanne Vickberg (aka Dr. Suz)

Research Lead | Deloitte Greenhouse®

Dr. Suz is a social-personality psychologist and a leading practitioner of Deloitte’s Business Chemistry, which Deloitte uses to guide clients as they explore how their work is shaped by the mix of individuals who make up a team. Previously serving in Deloitte’s Talent organization, since 2014 she’s been coaching leaders and teams in creating cultures that enable each member to thrive and make their best contribution. Along with her Deloitte Greenhouse colleague Kim Christfort, Suzanne co-authored the book Business Chemistry: Practical Magic for Crafting Powerful Work Relationships as well as a Harvard Business Review cover feature on the same topic. She also leads the Deloitte Greenhouse research program focused on Business Chemistry and is the primary author of the Business Chemistry blog. An “unapologetic introvert” and Business Chemistry Guardian-Dreamer, you will never-the-less often find her in front of a room, a camera, or a podcast microphone speaking about Business Chemistry or Suzanne and Kim’s second book, The Breakthrough Manifesto: Ten Principles to Spark Transformative Innovation, which digs deep into methodologies and mindsets to help obliterate barriers to change and ignite a whole new level of creative problem-solving. Suzanne is a University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate with an MBA from New York University’s Stern School of Business and a doctorate in Social-Personality Psychology from the Graduate Center at the City University of New York. She is also a professional coach, certified by the International Coaching Federation. She has lectured at Rutgers Business School and several colleges in the CUNY system, and before joining Deloitte in 2009, she gained experience in the health care and consulting fields. A mom of two teenagers, she maintains her native Minnesota roots and currently resides in New Jersey, where she volunteers for several local organizations with a focus on hunger relief.