I met a case worker who came in with a client I helped last week. She was my hero, I’d just never met her before. She was good-humored, sarcastic, didn’t get swept up by irritation, and seemed like a really fun person to be around. Today I helped a preschool teacher who I assumed was older than me (she had that coolness about her that I’m so used to looking up to). She was a year younger than me. She was really expressive but soft spoken (like…the perfect preschool teacher). We clicked. I also helped an elderly women whose husband had recently passed away. She came in with her son and daughter in law to take care of her late husband's accounts. I tried to be efficient and patient, even though her son was on edge and didn’t like being in my office as long as he was. I got flustered and made mistakes. At least the lady and her daughter in law were nice.
I feel the need to explain myself in tense situations like that. There’s this welling up of justification and I want to blurt, “Hey, this is a delicate process, and it’s confusing because our computer system doesn’t update every account by default. I have to go into each one of your individual records in each of your individual accounts, so chillax. It takes TIME to reconcile a person‘s accounts when they die.” Of course, because I’m a good employee who values her job, I just smiled and worked silently.
The longer I'm under pressure to hurry, and the more a person I'm helping is antsy or irritated, the higher my anxiety spikes. I get sweaty and flushed and angry.
These are the kinds of scenarios you do NOT mention during a job interview when you’re asked “how do you perform under pressure?”