Stress doesn’t lead to success

by | Nov 7, 2011 | News

Maybe a corporate leader’s admission will encourage more openness about an issue which damages health, destroys morale and prevents high performance, says Simon Hayward from Cirrus in People Management.

Antonio Horta-Osorio, chief executive of Lloyds Banking Group, has announced he is taking time off as he is suffering from stress. Rather fittingly, or perhaps somewhat ironically, this was announced on National Stress Awareness Day.

It’s unusual for high-profile corporate leaders to admit they are suffering from stress. But why shouldn’t they? Stress is really damaging, and the prevailing culture that prevents many people admitting that stress affects them is detrimental to working life. Most of us would say we want to be part of positive, productive organisations – we want to feel engaged, we want to be motivated, and we want to enjoy work. When we feel this way, it’s good for us as individuals and good for the organisations we work for. When we don’t, we get stressed out.

‘Stress’ is often viewed and dealt with in isolation. In reality, it’s usually part of a wider issue. The economic crisis has meant that most organisations are now trying to do ‘more for less’. As a result, many employees feel the need to work longer hours, often without increased recognition or reward. This can be a stressful situation and often will not lead to better results. Some employees fear speaking up because they worry about damaging their career prospects or even losing their jobs. A recent survey from mental health charity Mind found that 41% of workers feel stressed – and the same percentage feel stress is a taboo subject. So perhaps the Lloyds CEO’s openness about this issue will help to raise awareness about stress and the impact it can have.

Success doesn’t rely on long hours and unrealistic deadlines. Research demonstrates that the best-performing organisations tend to have highly engaged employees. These fortunate people tend not to be overly stressed because they are supported, empowered, and have a clear understanding of how their work contributes to the overall success of their organisation. Engaged people usually want to take on increased responsibility rather than feel they have to. Their leaders have created a compelling vision and a positive environment that they are keen to be a part of. Their increased contributions are recognised – and this recognition doesn’t always have to be financial. Most of us appreciate positive feedback, feeling valued and knowing we’ve contributed to the success of our teams and our organisations.

It’s very easy to cite research and describe a low-stress world of engaged, fulfilled employees. It is, of course, much harder to achieve in practice. So how can we do it? Well, often the best place to start is with conversation. Through something as simple yet powerful as dialogue we can connect to each other, explore issues, and share solutions.

Maybe a big corporate leader admitting that the stress of his job is just too much to cope with will help catalyse conversations about stress, and encourage more of us to be open about an issue which damages health, destroys morale and prevents us performing as well as we can.

Click here to read Simon’s article on the People Management website.

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