Stressed Out! Chill Out!

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According to a new Populus poll of 2050 workers from the UK mental health charity, Mind, the reason could be workplace stress, now on the increase thanks to the recession – specifically unemployment, longer hours and job insecurity. Indeed, when you breathe your last, is your final thought likely to be: “Gosh, I wish I’d spent more time on that report on the plight of the Cochabamba mountain-finch”?

If you work in an organisation that’s technically-focused, process-driven and has a long-hours/constant availability culture, it can take a long time before anyone’s brave enough to say “no” and add: “there’s an easier way”.

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In fact, you learn a kind of discernment. Stuff that has to be done. Stuff that can be knocked off quickly. Meetings to attend. Meetings to avoid. You’ll occasionally get flak for not dotting every ‘i’ and crossing every ‘t’ but you’ll also get much praise for creative and lateral thinking that you’ll now find you have the mental capacity to do. So, by doing what looks to be less, you add more value.

You have to be certain, though, that your value to your organisation is not the hours you work or the forms you fill in but the stuff only you can do. It could employ any slave wage to sit through five-hour meetings with Jack and Jill from Sales, fill in endless forms and attend ‘bonding’ sessions. What is it that you add to this package? That’s what you need to concentrate on. It’s quality of work and effectiveness that count, not long hours and authoritarian managers.


In fact, the Spanish Labour Ministry has just imposed a €25,000 fine on a top official in Spain’s leading business association, the CEOE, for displaying “systematic authoritarian management”. José de la Cavada, director of the CEOE’s labour relations department, was fined after his employees filed a complaint for verbal abuse and forcing them to perform humiliating tasks. Some role model with a set of interpersonal skills pitched lower than a weasel’s bottom!

Sometimes processes need to be altered, bureaucracy tamed, flow-charts short-circuited. It’s a riskier but endlessly more fulfilling task to make those changes happen than to take everything that’s thrown at you without thought for your health or that of your colleagues.


We all need to take charge of our lives. Don’t buy that house that’s six times your salary. Or that car that’s so much fancier than your neighbour’s. Holiday at home. Buy less. Get a hobby. It certainly feels better. Remember you are a long time dead. And while Gordon Ramsay’s tombstone is likely to have little on it but the word “F***!”, do the rest of us really want ours to read: “They gave their life for the company”?

Nora Johnson’s novel, The De Clerambault Code (www.nora-johnson.com) available at Amazon. Profits to Cudeca




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