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  • Steve Nguyen, PhD

Lack of Composure

Many years ago I had a chance to meet and interact with a middle manager who, while appearing on the outside to be very self-assured, was quite poor at handling pressure and stress. On multiple occasions when put in a situation that this person was ill-equipped or unprepared for, the reaction was often one of panic, then domineering behaviors, and sometimes even followed by odd or peculiar behaviors.

In FYI: For Your Improvement (a guide for coaching and development), Lombardo and Eichinger talked about lack of composure (Lombardo & Eichinger, 2009, p. 454):

“[L]osing one’s cool and getting unduly upset isn’t conducive to a successful career. Being able to function normally under stress and pressure is one of the mission-critical requirements for most managerial jobs.”

People who lack of composure:

• Do not handle pressure and stress well

• Get emotional, subjective, and unpredictable when things don’t go as planned

• May become hostile or sarcastic or withdraw from people as stress increases

• May make snap or poor decisions under pressure

• Performance degrades when things get tough

Reasons for lack of composure include:

• Defensive

• Easily overwhelmed

• In a bad set of circumstances you can’t get out of

• Lack of self confidence

• Over your head

• Overly sensitive

• Perfectionist

• Too much going on

• Very control oriented

• Weak impulse control

“A lot of loss of composure starts with an intended or even an unintended criticism. There are a lot of perfect people in this world who cannot deal with a piece of negative information about themselves or about something they have or have not done” (Lombardo & Eichinger, 2009, p. 456).


“People say and do dumb and inappropriate things when they lose their composure. The problem is that they say the first thing that occurs to them to say. They do the first thing that occurs to them to do. Research shows that generally somewhere between the second and third thing you think of to say or do is the best option. Practice holding back your first response long enough to think of a second. When you can do that, wait long enough to think of a third before you choose” -Michael Lombardo & Robert Eichinger

Written By: Steve Nguyen, Ph.D.

Organizational & Leadership Development Leader


Lombardo, M. M., & Eichinger, R. W. (2009). FYI: For Your Improvement – A Guide for Development and Coaching (5th ed.). Korn Ferry.



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