The Secrets of Stress in Corporate Cultures
By Deborah Goldstein, Driven Professionals
When I launched DRIVEN’s Energy Management blog series on July 28th, 2016, I mentioned that many corporate cultures are stress-generating, meaning, the stressors have been inadvertently woven into the fabric of their operations. This is the case for more companies and office places than realize it. The implications of a workplace atmosphere being a stress incubator can be detrimental to productivity and the long-term physical health of perpetually-overwhelmed employees. It is also the reason why the cost of stress on the US economy is $300 billion annually. This, of course, should prompt a call to action on the part of employers and managers, which starts with the analysis of unnecessary stressors in the design of your organization’s corporate culture. However, there is more than meets the eye when it comes to evaluating stress in the workplace, and you might be surprised to discover what’s subtly concealed behind the veil.
The Triggers of Bad Stress
As a boss or manager, a prime component of your responsibility is to sense what unforeseen stressors, if any, lurk below the surface in your office environment. This is by no means an appeal to take a laissez-faire approach to managing, nor is it a plea to expect anything less than professionalism and excellence from your employees; Rather, it’s a chance to evaluate the unnecessary stressors at play….the ones which may be compromising everyone’s performance. Mistakes as simple as unchecked micromanagement or the unintentional fostering of drama between coworkers can likely add oppressive stress into people’s lives. Even something as unassuming as being in a bad mood too often can inject a vibe of tension into the atmosphere and affect everyone’s drive. Have you noticed that your business meetings are longer than necessary, or worse, unproductive? This wastes everyone’s time, and carves away at morale and momentum at an unprecedented level.
These are precisely the types of office issues that need to be properly addressed and reversed before your workplace becomes a runaway train of stress, which ultimately rides off the rails in the form of “busyness” and other catabolic catastrophes. But before you take action, remember to acknowledge the difference between bad stress and “good stress”, the latter of which can have surprisingly positive effects on performance.
“Good Stress” As A Motivator
Stress is a word and a concept that, without question, Possesses negative connotations. But did you realize that stress can be thought of in a positive light, and utilized by the individual in a harmless and productivity-generating fashion? Think of it this way: Stress is a useful prompt for action and duty, and is what makes every organism function. Perhaps Travis Bradberry illustrated this with the most linguistic economy when he said “Our brains are wired such that it’s difficult to take action until we feel at least some stress and discomfort.” What he is telling us is that stress and our brains are natural counterparts, and that our greatest accomplishments are clearly the results of the encouragement by a little voice that says “Let’s get started before it’s too late, silly!”
It can be beneficial to reframe stress for ourselves and for our employees. Instead of an evil and anxiety-inducing roadblock, think of stress as a burst of energy that basically advises you on what to do. Ulifeline.org, an online resource for college student mental health, indicates in its concise and informative article about good stress/bad stress that stress can actually act as a motivator and allow you to focus on tasks with pinpoint precision by activating the adrenal hormone cortisol. This “good stress” can actually safeguard the immune system; It’s only when stress lingers for days or weeks that our immune system becomes compromised, which is one of the reasons why it’s so important to employ stress in short-term situations and then utilize techniques for shutting it down (The “weight of a water glass” analogy applies here aptly). An article in UC Berkley News looked further into this phenomenon, demonstrating how acute vs chronic stress impacts your memory!
It’s All In Our Heads, Folks
When we find ourselves caught in the trap of stress, letting it work against us perpetually, it might be enlightening to concede that we are truly the ones in control. Forbes.com contributor Vanessa Loder reminds us that starting in the late 90’s, researchers conducted an ambitious 8-year experiment with thousands of stressed-out participants. It demonstrated that stress-related risk of death increased dramatically only among those who believed their stress was doing them physical harm. Those who didn’t believe had a lower risk of death than even non-stressed people! Imagine that. You can actually be in control of your own health by using your mind. I like to think of it with a bit less abstraction: Once you invent the division between yourself and your stress, you’ve given stress an identity, and a license to run your life.
To learn more, and to expose your staff to these stress-diminishing insights, consider DRIVEN’s world-class Private Client Services.
Deborah Goldstein is the founder of the Driven Professionals, a community driven to support the health, well-being & success potential of NYC professionals. Deborah is also the founder ofGoldie’s Table Matters, providing education and entertainment to both corporate and private clients nationwide.