CorporateCoach eNewsletter

Issue No. 40, 22nd December 2003


  1. Editorial: Time to ban stress
  2. Coaching notes: The Stress-free Workplace in 50 years time

1.     Editorial: Time to ban stress

Richard Winfield - editor and principal consultantLike many people across the globe we shall be taking some time off over the Christmas and New Year holiday period.

This is a time to take a break and reflect, a time to unwind – and, for many people, a time to set resolutions for the New Year.

If, as you step back, you experience a lifting of a burden, a release of stress – or if the opposite and you experience a build up of stress – then perhaps you should review the role of stress in your life.

What is stress? My definition is simple: Stress is a killer. It is also a symptom of something wrong. Frustration, burn-out, low morale, blood pressure, heart attack. You know the signs. Don't accept damaging stress as a necessary part of modern life – nor as a status symbol.

Stress is unacceptable in the workplace. And increasingly this is recognised by governments and courts. You spend so much time at work, you should be able to enjoy it.

According to Georgia Reproductive Specialists, stress has physical and emotional effects on us and can create positive or negative feelings. As a positive influence, stress can help compel us to action; it can result in a new awareness and an exciting new perspective. As a negative influence, it can result in feelings of distrust, rejection, anger, and depression, which in turn can lead to health problems such as headaches, upset stomach, rashes, insomnia, ulcers, high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.

Stress is different from pressure; some people thrive on pressure. Stress can arise from too little pressure as well as from too much. As a general rule, stress is a result of being unable to control your environment. In particular, in work terms it can be related to responsibility. Too little responsibility and you are stressed because you are not empowered to make a difference. Too much responsibility and you are unable to make a difference because you lack the skills or the resources.

So stress is a result of poor people management.

The UK's Health and Safety Executive lists six key stress factors: -

  • The demands of the job
  • The control staff have over how they do their work
  • The support they receive from colleagues and superiors
  • Their relationships with colleagues
  • Whether they understand their roles and responsibilities
  • How far the company consults staff over workplace changes.

In structural engineering, stress tests are run to help forecast the reaction to heavy loads. Perhaps in business we could include stress tests as a means of measuring the cultural health of an organisation.

Here are some tests for you. How often do you:

  • Feel irritable?
  • Feel restless?
  • Feel frustrated at having to wait for something?
  • Become easily confused?
  • Have memory problems?
  • Think about negative things all the time?
  • Have marked mood swings?
  • Eat too much?
  • Eat when you are not hungry?
  • Find it difficult to concentrate?
  • Not have enough energy to get things done?
  • Feel you can't cope?
  • Find it hard to make decisions?
  • Have emotional outbursts?
  • Generally feel upset?

Physical symptoms can include:

  • Muscle tension
  • Low back pain
  • Pains in your shoulders or neck
  • Pains in your chest
  • Stomach/abdominal pain
  • Muscle spasms or nervous tics
  • Twitching eyelid
  • Unexplained rashes or skin irritations
  • Generally itchy skin for no apparent reason
  • 'Pounding' or 'racing' of your heart
  • Sweaty palms
  • Sweating when you are not physically active
  • 'Butterflies' in your stomach

If you are suffering from stress, confronting it will improve your life. If others are suffering from stress, confronting it will improve the workplace – and improve the effectiveness of the organisation.

We end with some light relief, a stress-free poem from some schoolchildren.

In the meantime, may we wish you a very happy holiday and a fulfilling, stress-free 2004.



Dear Editor

Great newsletter today! You asked the question...

"Do you have a monkey strategy? How do you decide when and how to share ownership for someone's monkey?"

The problem I have with the "monkey" thinking is that it's too small – it's like trying to cut a lawn with a pair of scissors. Yes, you can make progress, but it takes a lot of work to continue deflecting monkeys one at a time.

The bigger picture here is that people think you're responsible (or want you to be responsible) for a whole range of decisions. The fix is to create a comprehensive list of roles and responsibilities, so people can use that as the list of where to go to get decisions made. In its simplest form, this is merely a list of the players, and what kinds of decisions they each own.

A more advanced version of this also lists when people should be consulted for decisions, and when they should be informed about decisions which have been made. This helps people to be more comfortable with their decision making, because they have a structure for catching mistakes and reducing the risk they're taking.

Deflecting monkeys is fine, but sometimes it can almost be as much work as doing the work itself. You don't want to create an environment where people are constantly asking permission to be empowered.

My thoughts....

Carl Dierschow

2.    Coaching notes: The Stress-free Workplace in 50 years time
A poem written by pupils at Leechpool Lane School for Roffey Park Management Institute (in 1996)

The stress-free workplace,
It really could be true.
Work and pleasure rolled into one.
Read on, this could be you.

The main building is the workplace
The rest is to unwind.
The gym, the sauna, a restaurant,
Are pictures in my mind.

The gym a place to workout
Or badminton if you care,
A peace garden to wander round
No noise or hassle there.

A music area to express your thought
Or to calm any tension.
What a place this really is,
I could work there 'till my pension.

A creche to cater for the tiny tots
Their every need provided.
While you go off and do your work
In caring hands they?re guided.

A restaurant to serve delicious meals
Or even just a snack.
A bar for drinks or to tell a joke,
There?s nothing here we lack.

A conference room to discuss and plan.
A table with many places,
A lecture room to learn things new,
A theatre full of faces.

The stress free workplace,
It really could be true.
The idea of this is possible.
Your future?s here, are you?


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We hope you enjoyed this issue of CorporateCoach. If you would like to learn more about how we can work together, then please contact me, Richard Winfield:

Telephone: 08450 678 222, or +44 (0)121 704 2006 (international)