You know stress is bad for your health. But what about your career? When results are rough the “obvious” answer is to work longer and harder. It’s sad to watch a passionate, hard-working leader shoot themselves in the foot with a stressful reaction. Don’t let stress destroy hard work or sabotage your progress.
Stress Sabotage Stories
(all names changed)
- Sally worked late every night for weeks getting the numbers just right. She was exhausted. She knew the scenarios inside and out as she presented to the senior team. When an executive questioned the methodology, she began to cry. She knew the answer, but was too worked up to explain it. After all that work, they remember the tears more than the results.
- Joe is a seasoned sales manager who’s passionate about his vision and driven to win. The competitor was gaining ground, and he was not happy. He frantically called for more meetings and action plans. He demanded improvement… loudly. Stress rolled downhill. The team spent more time explaining the problem than selling. Results got worse.
- Carol’s child was sick and the diagnosis was unclear. She was afraid to tell her boss or to take time off during this critical time in the business. She became distracted and dropped a few balls. Not knowing the whole story, her boss concluded she didn’t care.
- Frank was “too committed to take vacation.” He worked long days and stayed connected every weekend. He stopped exercising and started drinking too much coffee. His cranky demeanor led his team to avoid telling him bad news He didn’t learn that the project was in jeopardy until it was too late to fix it.
- Brenda is the ultimate multi-tasker. She gets a lot done, but she always seems frantic. Despite her strong track record of results, she’s not getting promoted due to concerns of “executive presence.”
The Cleveland Clinic provides a good summary of the signs and symptoms of stress. Hardly the conditions for elegant leadership.
|Headaches||Difficulty concentrating||Anger||Increased alcohol use|
|Chest tightness||Worrying||Depression||Increased caffeine use|
|Fatigue||Thoughts of death||Poor self-esteem||Drug use|
|Stomach cramps||Poor attention to detail||Moodiness||Violence|
|Difficulty breathing||Perfectionist tendencies||Suspiciousness||Overeating|
|Diarrhea||Indecisiveness||Guilt||Weight gain or loss|
|Loss of sexual interest||Feeling helpless||Weeping||Relationship conflict|
|Insomnia||Catastrophizing (blowing things out of prorportion)||Loss of motivation||Decreased activity|
It’s easy to think the way out of a stressful situation is to push harder, deeper, and work longer. Taking the foot off your gas may get you further.
The American Psychological Association offers a list of good suggestions for dealing with stress. What would you add? What works best for you?