Stress Management

Article excerpt

In a prior column I defined training fads and commented on them. One that has enjoyed a long run of popularity is stress management training.

I have reviewed a number of stress courses and have never really become a convert to the cause.

The courses all cleave fairly closely to a mean, or central formula, that says, "There is more stress than ever in our work lives, and we can lick it by balancing work and play, having wholesome core values, deep breathing, humor, high-fiber diets, ergonomic workstations and regular bowel habits."

Well, nobody could say these things are bad or wrong, but it is specious to think that managing them will cure workplace stress because they are not the root causes of (most) stress.

Overwhelmingly, the greatest cause of workplace stress is simple, plain, old-fashioned workload. Give a processor five files to work, and she's bored; give her 10 to 15 and she's an active, happy camper; give her 80 (not unheard of, though it should be) and it's no wonder she thinks Prozac is one of the basic food groups. One of the unargued tenets of management is that a manager can effectively lead six to nine people (it's called "span of control"), yet I know many sales managers with 20 or 25 direct reports.

Parenthetically, none of our electronic gizmos reduces our workload a bit. What they do is enormously increase our efficiency at performing each task, thereby enabling - in fact, requiring - us to perform many more tasks.

Secondary to workload, but still very significant, are a cluster of related stress-inducers. These are. . .

* Your industry. Different industries typically produce different kinds of stress; ours is known for volatility. …