Motivational Speaker Carole Spiers says … The stress of driving

Last time I was in Dubai, I was given a lift by a new client, who seemed to me quite a mature and well-adjusted sort of character  –  until the first time I saw him in traffic.

Through no fault of either of ours, we were running a few minutes late for our meeting, and now he was trying to make up the time, putting his foot down, overtaking on blind corners and sounding his horn quite unnecessarily, until I suddenly recognised a haunting landmark  –  the Ghantoot Bridge. “Do you realize this is where the accident happened?” I said as emphatically as I could, without raising the tension-levels further.

That got to him. You couldn’t live here and not remember 300 people suddenly being taken to hospital. He seemed to calm down a bit after that.

At our destination, I needed to say three things to him.  First, a missed meeting wasn’t the end of the world, compared to the Al Ghantoot tragedy. Second, he was definitely heading for heart trouble. And third, opening my handbag, I gave him a CD of the Chopin Preludes, which I’d just bought at the airport to keep in my glove compartment to ward off traffic-stress. His need was a lot greater than mine.

He was very grateful for the guidance and has now been a client of ours for many years.

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Organisational Change

Any prospect of organisational change  –  a merger, a takeover, a relocation  –  tends to provoke fear and resentment out of proportion to the actual disruption that eventually happens.

One of my corporate clients had re-located to a new building that was nearly all open-plan, where only the directors would have private offices. A middle manager, who had just earned the privilege of his own office after many years, felt badly let-down by the change and I had a hard job convincing him of the benefits of the open-plan way of working. I explained that his status was still reflected in extra space, a bigger desk and a favourable position overlooking the beach and marina. A degree of privacy could still be achieved through careful layout, yet he would be able to keep an eye on what was going on in the department.

A year later, my client asked him if he would really prefer to put the clock back if he had the chance, and he admitted that he wouldn’t.

Up to then, my client had had trouble viewing organisational change as a formal topic, suitable for lectures and seminars. Now he organises regular courses in this ever-important aspect of HR.
 
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Motivational Speaker Carole Spiers says … Underload

We always identify stress with overload  –  dangerous pressure building-up through those bulging in-trays and late nights. But too little pressure at work may be just as dangerous as too much. Underload (or under-demand) sets up constant stress through monotony, inertia and boredom for which we were simply not designed.

In one of the top London merchant banks, I had to counsel a young man of twenty who had won every bonus and passed every promotion exam with distinction, and had technically qualified for a board position.  But he was regarded as too young, and was made to spend eighteen months looking after some less-demanding overseas business while a new post could be created for him. The change of rhythm seriously threw him. Quite unaccountably, he started performing badly on simple routine jobs. This changed his image from fast-track to mediocre, and he tended to fraternize with other mediocrities, so that his standards remained low. Last I heard, his career had never regained its momentum.

‘Underload syndrome’  has been officially recognised by industrial psychologists, and is available for formal study, counselling and training throughout the corporate world.

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Phone +44 (0) 20 8954 1593 or email: info@carolespiersgroup.co.uk

Visit Carole’s website at: www.carolespiersgroup.co.uk

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Motivational Speaker Carole Spiers says … Burnout

Today’s workplace is clearly asking for burnout, the biggest factor being the atmosphere of non-stop emergency, based on the idea that any relaxation will play straight into the hands of the competition.

So a goal is set, you reach it, and earn the promised reward. The next goal is then set higher in exchange for a higher reward. You start to make a Pavlovian connection between effort and reward, and then you can’t escape that ever-spiralling workload.

As your mental image of a burnout victim is likely to be male, it’s worth recalling one case of a female manager who suffered the same fate.  Her job was to market a particular brand of leatherwear (mostly belts and handbags) aimed at mid-market women in their forties and fifties  –  which matched her own profile.

Matched it too well, in fact.

Because every retailer found her so convincing as the representative of this market-sector that they ate out of her hand. The firm realised she was irreplaceable and paid her incredible bonuses, if she would just keep travelling round the country selling to every store in town. It was literally the offer she couldn’t refuse. But first her family life, then her health began to suffer. And still she just could not let go. Eventually a close friend persuaded her to retire, but not until a lot of damage had been done.

This calls for a severe questioning of that apparently watertight proposition about the dangers of relaxation. I never heard how the firm coped with her loss. But I wouldn’t mind betting that their HR department has since been briefed on the dangers of burnout too.

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