DiSC and stress 

Activity for managers

Objective: What drives and motivates a manager might have no effect, or even be demotivating, for some of their employees. DiSC can help managers recognize when individuals on their teams might be stressed and how to respond.

Prerequisites: A completed Everything DiSC Management profile.

Materials: Physical or virtual whiteboard. 

Time: ~100 minutes


  1. Ask for examples of what can be stressful at work. Write these on a whiteboard or ask learners to post to chat or a shared whiteboard.
  2. Ask for examples of signs of stress. How do you know you're stressed? How do you know if your colleague is stressed? Write these on a whiteboard or ask learners to post to chat or a shared whiteboard.
  3. Reflect on how many of these examples could be seen as negative, but also discuss how sometimes stress is good for us. For example, putting stress on our muscles is how we build them up. 
  4. Ask for examples of negative and positive stress (or eustress) they've experienced. For example, receiving a promotion or practicing new skills can be a positive source of stress. Holding someone accountable or being held accountable can be a necessary, but uncomfortable, type of stress. Negative stress such as job insecurity can shut down all productivity on a team and cause people to look for new opportunities.
    Tip: Steps 1-4 should be completed quickly. Long lists are not needed. These questions are designed to get learners sharing and thinking about stress.
  5. Point out that what one person shares as stressful might not create that same amount of stress in someone else. This is where we can look to DiSC for help. Public recognition is a good example. You can expect someone with a D or an i style to experience public recognition of their work as a positive stressor. For a C- or an S-style person, it might be a negative stressor if the person with a C style doesn't think it was accurate or if the S-style person thinks it unfairly excluded others.
  6. Ask learners to consider how motivation and stress can mirror each other. Stress can be seen as a demotivator. Review what participants know about motivation from their Everything DiSC Management profiles. Help them create a chart that looks something like the one below.

    Motivators for each DiSC style
  7. With this chart visible, ask participants to share what might stress out each style. If they are slow to begin, encourage them to speak for their own style. You might end up with something like this:

    Tip: Be prepared to remind them about eustress and to add an example of that to their chart. (Examples: promotion, new responsibilities, new team member, vacation, improved space, better technology, retirement)
  8. Ask small groups to work through scenarios (as time allows) and what they could do as managers to reduce or increase stress for each style. Try to make these scenarios fit the organization you're working with. For the group that created the chart above, you might want to have the scenario be around another meeting without an agenda. Consider letting participants use a real-life scenario of their own. Other examples:
    • You've all been asked to work from home for an unspecified amount of time.
    • It's annual review time.
    • Sales are down and no one is coming up with ideas for improving them.
    • Your offices are being moved to a much nicer location, but away from upper management.
    • Your organization was just purchased by a larger, better-known organization.
    • A favorite team member just quit.
    • A challenging and disruptive team member was just fired.
    • Your team's project or goal was just changed.
    • Employees on other teams are getting promoted, but no one from your team is being promoted.
    • A new project management system has just been introduced.
    • A team member has to take off for three months of maternity/paternity leave, or twelve months for a military deployment.
    • Budget cuts are announced, but not for your team.
    • Only one person gets public recognition for the team's work.
    • Your team hasn't been given a new project lately.
    • A regulator, your legal team, or another group has just added additional policies the team has to comply with.
  9. End the session by asking the managers to look at page 17 of their report: Your Approach to Developing Others. Break them into small groups and ask them to reflect on what they reviewed today and what's on page 17. How do they want to work on their approach in the coming week? Is there a person on their team they should meet with? Is there a skill they want to develop? Is there an upcoming event they need to prepare their team for? Is there a self-care routine they need to begin?

Follow-up for managers

Consider sharing one or more of these articles with managers after this training.

And don't forget, stress can lead to conflict, so offer an Everything DiSC Productive Conflict session.