Stress: Why it is ruining your business

with 2 Comments

LONDON — Why does W.H Smith have this new category of books in all it’s bigger stores? (See photo above.) Why are we obsessed with misery?

I was talking to someone who works in occupational health and safety last week. And I was surprised to hear that, even in heavily manufacturing businesses, the big issues are no longer “dead finger” or Legionnaire’s disease. Right around the world the hardest issue businesses have to deal with is: Stress.

Here’s a sampling of the statistics:

These statistics are easy to find. The answers are more troubling to most businesses. Companies spend a lot of time looking for answers, with little success.

I believe there are two reasons why stress is killing your business:

1) People have decided that their lives are true-life tragedies.
Like the W.H. Smith sign says. We are becoming more and more obsessed with living in the middle of our own melodramas. Everything is so dramatic and we are always the victims. I feel it myself. It’s like we adults have never stopped being teenagers. We need to get over ourselves sometimes.

2) Employers increase people’s stress — when they should reduce it

This one worries me the most. Because organisations like yours can do something about it. And if you don’t do something about it, you can be held responsible.

HR often knows that employees are stressed and they’ll introduce “work-life balance programmes” to try to fix it. But they don’t work. They don’t work because they address the effects, not the cause.

So, bringing your dog to work, or meeting for pilates sessions in the lunch room might soothe you on one level (even briefly) but they won’t eliminate the cause of your stress.

The cause of your stress at work might be:

  • you’ve got too much work
  • you can’t do what you need to
  • you’re being bullied or mistreated somehow
  • you expect to be sacked
  • and many more

These are all system and process issues within the business. They might be cultural, managerial, or they could be imposed by the market or the economic cimate. But none of those are good enough excuses. If a good day’s work is causing your employees too much stress, then you have to address the root causes.

We know how to do that.

What do you think?


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2 Responses

  1. Adrian Swinscoe

    Hi David,
    You are right on both counts…..people are too caught up in the negative side of things and the media and our culture doesn’t help. However, when it comes to business I think a large part of stress creation comes from poor management and leadership. I think Jack Welch said it best when he said “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others” and I am not sure that is the case in many organisations and thus can be a large contributor to stress levels.

    Do you agree?


  2. David Ferrabee

    You are right, as I’d expect. I like the image (not sure whose it is) of a leaders’ job being to clear the way for other people to succeed.
    There’s a selflessness in that Welch alludes to. He says ‘growing’. Sometimes it feels to me that it’s ‘growing up’.

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