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Level Up - Issue #156


Level Up

August 7 · Issue #156 · View online

Level Up delivers a curated newsletter for leaders in tech. A project by Ideal for busy people such as Tech Leads, Engineering Managers, VPs of Engineering, CTOs and more.

Pressure Switch
In last week’s newsletter, I covered how leaders need to cope with pressure from different sources and ensure you have outlets for this. But even with a good set of habits or a support structure, sometimes the pressure will come all at once, or you reach a breaking point I like to call the “pressure switch.”
We all have a pressure switch. When the switch is off, we remain calm, act mostly logical and feel like we’re in control. When the switch is on, you behave very differently.
Here are some first-hand examples from leaders I’ve witnessed:
  • The Angry Orge - This persona raises their voice compared to their normal tone. Shouting, aggression and ready to fight or start a fight (typically verbal but not always).
  • The Sulking Child - This persona throws blame on everyone else about their situation, complaining and constantly sulking.
  • Everything is Fine - I’m sure you’ve seen the meme. This persona pretends no pressure exists and the reality of the situation. They go about their normal routine as if nothing was wrong.
  • The Helpless One - This persona feels like they cannot do anything to deal with or redirect any of the pressure. They fail to make decisions and act, expecting someone else to step up.
When the pressure switch is on, we cannot work at our best. And the bad news is… we all have this potential. Knowing that a situation can activate the pressure switch at any time, here are a few things you can try:
  • Track pressure - Like the “straw that broke the camel’s back”, if you know pressure is building over time, you should start to find ways to decrease this as there will be a tipping point - you just don’t know when.
  • Know which persona you gravitate towards when the pressure switch is on - If you know you gravitate towards a specific type of behaviour or persona, evaluate if you are starting to show signs of this.
  • Ask a trusted person to intervene - Evaluating your own behaviour requires a high degree of emotional intelligence (specifically self-awareness) which you may or may not have developed. Instead, share your tell-tale signs that your pressure switch is on to someone you trust and ask them to warn you when they notice them.
  • Take a break - Once you know your switch is on, you need a way to turn it back off. Like a circuit breaker, you need something to even temporarily break the immediate pressure so you have a chance of reverting to your coping mechanisms. In a heated meeting or conversation? Change sceneries. Go outside. Disconnect for an hour. Go for a walk, or something to allow the switch to reset.
Don’t expect to be perfect as a leader. After all, we are all human. We all have (and have had) times when our pressure switch was on. Hopefully, you will find ways to quickly intervene. Apologise for any unintended behaviour but also be sure to address the source of pressure or the switch will flip on again.
Enjoy this week’s newsletter, and please pass it on to a friend or colleague who might benefit.
Future dates for Shortcut to Tech Leadership and Engineering Manager Essentials are now live. Also consider levelling up your skills with self-paced courses at the

We all have a pressure switch inside of us
We all have a pressure switch inside of us
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Thanks for making it this far! 🤗
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Patrick Kua, Postfach 58 04 40, 10314, Berlin, Germany