The Three Stress Response Groups

Human beings will typically react to stress in one of three ways, so being aware of and appreciating how each of us operates differently provides a perspective which will assist us in understanding ourselves and allow us to stay connected to others.

1. The Complying Response Group

This group will typically look for a sense of safety through harmony. At times, they may not know exactly where the focus of their attention should be. 

Look to join them in setting direction and focusing their attention on what is most important - for them and the organization. Schedule regular one-on-one (virtual) meetings, to check-in, support, and monitor their progress. 

This group is motivated by working in environments where trusting relationships are valued.  They prefer working in groups and being part of a team. They get along well with others. 

2. The Protecting Response Group

This group will be inclined to distance themselves from other’s. This is a best attempt for them to feel safe and secure. This group prefers autonomy and independence over collaboration and team-work. They are typically very knowledgeable and analytical.

Look to connect with them on an intellectual level first, engaging them with facts and information. 

This group can be motivated through the lens of leadership influence and understanding how improving their skills in this area can benefit them, and the organization.

3. The Controlling Response Group 

This group tends to over extend themselves and take too much on. Being successful is what drives them. This is a best attempt to feel that they are moving forward in the world. They are looking feel safe and valued by their contributions.

This group is big on vision and alignment. Look to connect with them through this lens. Coach them to share the load by delegating to their key performers. 

This group can be motivated through the lens of leadership development. Developing themselves in order to develop others. 


How does your stress response keep you from being engaged and connected to others? 



  • Horney, K. (1942). Self-Analysis, New York: Norton
  • The Leadership Circle (Reactive Types)