Survey after survey blames poor management for the growing epidemic of stress related work absenteeism…but for those of us who have had first-hand experience of fuckwit managers this can come as little surprise.
This is a really interesting subject but before I get into it I have to state that I love my job and love…well really like…my boss, but that has not always been the way because certainly in my early years I experienced some really shit management…with one particular tosser standing out BIG time.
For the record this was over 20 years ago and yet if I allow myself to spend anytime dwelling on the antics of this fuckwit, then I can immediately feel my anxiety levels start to rise.
So as part of my self-protection at all costs, I have learned to put lines under any particular unpleasant episode in my past to starve my internal demons of the fuels that they have used to attack me.
Clearly from the blogs I write you will see that I have become fascinated by the human mind, but this fascination only started when I realised that my thoughts and reactions were having a devastating impact on my health…and career.
The OMG moment came when a close colleague, during a heated disagreement, pointed his finger at me and said “The trouble with you Richard is you can’t take criticism” and you know what he was 100% correct…I can’t (who can?)…and had I been in a good place at that time I would have agreed with him…job done…move on.
Boy if it was that frigging easy!!!
But and here is the BIG bastard BUT. I was struggling with some real tough family issues at the time so with my rational thoughts long gone, I was in a very dark, very vulnerable place with my subconscious running the entire show.
On this occasion before I had time to blink my subconscious, sensing a threat, triggered my flight and fight response and released a tidal wave of STRESS hormones into my system causing a gut retching pain in the pit of my abdomen which quickly enveloped my entire body, preparing me to lamp him and then leg it to the nearest river. It was a good career move that I chose to do neither but as a consequence, another shed-load of STRESS hormones were dumped into my body and with nothing better to do, they started to wreck it.
But it didn’t stop there…For many months after this encounter I would relive it virtually every day; with exactly the same outcome, resulting in my body being awash with toxic hormones.
So what the hell was happening to me?
I was to learn that the subconscious works in the now, it didn’t know whether my tension was due to a snarling tiger and a negative experience that happened years ago.
Oh no, if the subconscious senses the slightest threat then instantly…BAM…another seriously bad day at the office. I was in the proverbial vicious circle….but was I alone? Are you kidding Buster? This problem is epidemic. Really? Yes really do your research. So I did and the results were quite staggering.
In the studies I’ve read (HSE and ACAS) about stress in the work-place, the primary reason why millions of man hours are lost each year in the UK are stress related and break it down further and you will see that the number culprit for this, is…yep… poor management.
My very good friend Arnie who works in the legal profession is brilliant at what he does, has a superb reputation and thoroughly enjoys his work.
Unfortunately he has the biggest fuckwit of a senior partner that ever set foot on planet earth and, he alone, is causing Arnie to consider throwing the towel in. Although he is a partner in the firm his opinion is continually undermined when company decisions are made and when he confronts the senior partner the response is ‘your opinion is of no consequence’.
Arnie is on a really good salary and like most of us has a stonking big mortgage. He is married and has two young children. And yes he can move but currently the market for his particular skill is top heavy so he is going to have to sit it out for a while and accept any shit that this idiot of a partner throws at him. Yes I feel ‘trapped’ he concedes and I know it is affecting my health? Arnie confessed that for the first time in his life he now suffers from anxiety attacks.
For 18 years my wife worked as a part-time lecturer in adult education…and I use the term adult loosely. Mrs C loved teaching and was totally committed to the work. She had an unblemished record, always willing to provide cover when others started to freak out and take extended sickness leave as the exam period got closer…so for the college she was a reliable, valuable lecturer who you would think they would protect at all costs…but that’s not how it works.
In her last year before she called time she was physically threatened by two female students.
On the first occasion after an evening class security had to escort her safely off site as the girl and her mother laid in wait to ‘do her’. Oh yes she taught…wait for it…Beauty therapy.
In the other incident, a student who was showing off to her friends crashed into Caroline’s car which really shook her but it didn’t end there, rather than apologise, the girl completely lost it and tried to drag her out of her badly damaged Mini while spitting expletives…whilst Caroline’s passenger, another lecturer, sat there absolutely dumbstruck.
So with a security guard and lecturer and other students (including one of the passengers in the car) providing witness statements, it was cut and dry. The two students would be expelled for their totally unacceptable and appalling behaviour…end of.
Adult education is a business and for the college to lose these VALUABLE students would cost them financially. So the head of faculty suggested that perhaps Caroline might think about putting both incidents behind her; for everyone’s sake.
Caroline left the college and never returned and her health has improved noticeably since she retired.
In his must read book ‘Lost Connections’ Johann Hani writes a very compelling argument about depression, concluding that there are various triggers that cause humans to suffered from debilitating breakdowns…and probably not surprisingly WORK is right up there amongst the BIGGIES.
Most of us, as Mark conceded, are ‘trapped’ because of our financial commitments, and one could argue this gives management cart blanche to apply a somewhat arrogant ‘take it or leave it’ attitude that seems to prevail in many sectors of modern industry. Look at the evidence. In an ACAS survey of teachers, 75% admitted to feeling stressed due to the pressures being applied by management, and the unrealistic amounts of administration that NOW comes with the job. As one young teacher told me “things are really stressful at present, I’m working crazy hours, there’s little support cos everyone is in the same boat and I continue find myself thinking about retraining for another career,” but that, she reflects, “would mean losing my teacher pension so I suppose I will stick it out”.
Here’s a person in their early thirties who has already sold her health to the devil because of the perceived financial benefits that will result from retirement.
And it just goes on.
Stuart my MANSTRESS colleague talks openly about his recent terrible experiences within the educational system; my sister who worked for many years in tourism retired early from her County Council post because she was no longer prepared to accept the politics, appalling management and toxic atmosphere that prevailed…she now suffers with anxiety; and then there is my brother-in-law who finally hung up his helmet as a serving policeman citing “I’m out of here before the system gets me”. He has since struggled with chronic stress…too late the system got him!!
So what the hell is going wrong here? Here are 6 individuals, all highly educated; all highly motivated who were totally and utterly committed to their careers and yet every one of them has at some level been grounded down and had their spirits broken. Of course they will survive…because that is how nature designed it… but at what cost…for an increasing number the cost is a lifetime of extremely unpleasant psychological and physical ailments.
There are millions of work days lost in this country every year through stress-related issues. The financial cost to businesses and the UK economy is enormous and yet what is really changing? I would like to think that somewhere not too far into the future that the ‘system’ might wake up and begin to GET that a happy proactive workforce offers a lot more financial benefits than the current alternative.
There can be very few individuals who have not experienced that gut-wrenching pain that results from an unpleasant encounter when our body’s defences fires our STRESS hormones.
Indeed it’s perfectly normal if controlled. However, for an increasing number of individuals that feeling…that dreadful feeling is something that they are experiencing every day of their lives, and in the workplace, as the statistics and the experiences of my friends and family show, the primary cause is seriously bad management. No wonder there is little love shared between workers and management.
Ten years ago, as a result of the encounter with my colleague, and after a lot of soul searching I declared war on those gut-wrenching feelings and set about making significant changes to my life. The first thing I recognised is that I could not change the individuals entrusted to run the systems…But what I could do is change the way I ultimately dealt with those individuals and that meant either accepting them for what they were or bailing out…either way I no longer felt trapped because I was back in control of my destiny…and it seemed to work so I just carried on applying the same policy to other things in my life…and as a result everything seemed to get easier as the internal conflict subsided…and that is what I now work on every day.
And I can with all sincerity say that “I love my job and yes I really like my boss”.
So is your job so important that you would risk your health…remember your brain is an amazing piece of kit but it has LIMITATIONS…and when it crashes the results can be devastating.
Have a good day.