Now Panic and Freak Out!

Bait & SwitchOn my desk is a book, “Now Panic and Freak Out,” full of quotations about the lighter side of life.  No, I am not revisiting humor as a powerful tool again; instead, I am addressing some common themes in an uncommon manner.  While I agree that staying calm and carrying on is a tool that needs revisiting, I agree with Douglas Adams, “Don’t Panic” is just not working, and too many people forgot their towels!  So, get comfortable; we are going to discuss why it’s okay to panic now and freak out!

Just because nobody complains does not mean all parachutes are perfect.” – Benny Hill

A work acquaintance complains that too many managers are not squeaky wheels, so problems can be discovered and proactively worked.  For example, an automated report has not been generating for 18-months, and nobody said a word, even though the report generates the productivity of associates working and plays a role in a host of other decisions.  As a society, it appears that even if the parachute fails, nobody is willing to ask questions, and that is a problem.  Why did we as a society stop asking questions, digging for answers, and being curious?Pigeon Revenge

I have opinions of my own, strong opinions, but I don’t always agree with them.” – President George H. W. Bush

Was this one of those infamous slips of speech, a symbol of politician spinelessness, or is this a reality?  I have strong opinions, and I find it natural not to always agree with those opinions.  I do this as a reality check for my opinions and have found that playing “Devil’s Advocate” on my beliefs teaches me to learn, investigate, stay curious, and keep learning.  However, when I discuss this in public, people act like I stole their breakfast, kicked their dogs, and slapped them across the face.  Thus, I ask again, only for emphasis, when did we as a society stop chasing curiosity, valuing questions, and searching for answers?Calvin & Hobbes - Ontological Quandry

Everything has been figured out, except how to live.” – Jean-Paul Sartre

I heard a teenager express “I know” so often, I wanted to smack them.  Except, I was that teenager, and self-abuse was not going to help me.  I have read books all my life, and according to my wife, I have an incredible memory, plus I get the stories, just maybe not all the names and numbers.  Hence, I can tell you stories on a host of topics; on some topics, I can still quote the numbers and hazards, and on some topics, I just love having the basics nailed to see where the foundational stones can be laid to generate solutions.  But I have no clue how to live!  I still have some of my report cards from K-12, the most common comment, “Does not play well with others.”  Followed by “Would rather read than socialize.” Then closely followed by, “Does not like being interrupted when reading!”  I think Jean-Paul Sartre has something here worth discussing.  Why do we punish failure when failure is part of living?B.C. - Terminal Velocity

There was yet an uninteresting life.  Such a thing is an impossibility.  Inside the dullest exterior, there is a drama, a tragedy, and a comedy.” – Mark Twain

Jean-Paul Sartre and Mark Twain make excellent points here from both sides of the coin of life.  Better, figuring out how to live involves drama, tragedy, and comedy as tools for building knowledge.  Thus, the next time you hear someone claim, “I am dull, my life is boring,” you can assure them, Mark Twain and Jean-Paul Sartre would disagree with them vehemently.

Caution:  Cape does not enable the user to fly.” – Tag on a Batman cape.

But wouldn’t it be cool if it did?  How many have seen a Superman cape, a Batman cape, or Spiderman costume and thought, “I wish this would help me fly, climb walls, swing through the city on a web, or leap tall buildings, etc.”  Imagination and curiosity are crucial to learning, living, and being human.  Why would anyone not imagine?  I cannot fathom that reality, but the truth stares at me daily, where imagination is considered just for kids.  Have the adults in the room stopped learning; if so, why?  I cannot imagine a life without imagination as the tool to grab in problem-solving, understanding operations, or visualizing processes; yet, mention a daydream, or ask someone to imagine, and people recoil like you have leprosy.  If there was a reason to freak out and panic, a lack of imagination and refusals to learning are symptoms of the problem.Calvin & Hobbes - Pragmatic Principles

Facts are stupid things.” – President Ronald Reagan

Boy is this the absolute truth!  I see a lot of data every day!  Data are accepted as facts, and even when proven to be erroneous, people will still cling to the data as facts.  During my undergraduate statistics program, the instructor designed an awesome class.  We took a sample of data in Week 1, and by Week 8, we have proven our hypothesis, disproved our hypothesis, twisted the hypothesis, and written a host of reports to support our data as right and wrong with confidence.  Know what we learned, not to trust statistics and data as facts.  Unfortunately, not everyone has learned this lesson, want another lesson, people will always trump data!  I have witnessed people do extraordinary things under pressure that the data claims are 100% impossible.  Where people are involved, nothing is impossible, just improbable!BC - Definition

If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must Man be of learning from experience.” – George Bernard Shaw

Just to be fair, let’s include women in this category of learning from experience.  I know for a fact that men are not the only ones who struggle with learning from experience.  Plus, I think that was the point in emphasizing “Man” in the quote above; but I have learned that someone will choose to take offense that women are omitted.  Do you think this is a symptom of the disease or the disease itself?  Would you be surprised if I said this is only a symptom of the disease?

The disease is envy, labeled as equality and fairness, and aspersions are cast to justify choosing to be offended.  I was discussing this topic Sunday with several people, and the disease of envy is just too simple to understand, and the disease of envy is repeating the history of Rome.  Rome repeated Greece, Greece repeated the Byzantine Empire, who repeated Egypt, and the list goes on and on all the way back to Cain and Able.  Not a single society in history is exempt from the disease of envy, being displayed as equality and fairness.Anton Ego

Do not take life too seriously.  You will never get out of it alive.” – Elbert Hubbard

WWGDPanicking and freaking out are not opposite sides of the emotion coin; they are extensions of staying calm and carrying on.  I promise you cannot prove you are staying calm if you have not felt a reason to freak out.  You cannot prove you are successfully carrying on if you have not experienced fear and panic.  This might at first appear to be a paradox, but telling someone to stay calm who has never experienced panic, they will not know what you are talking about or what to do.

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

Stress in the Workplace – Starting a Discussion on Organizational Design

Non Sequitur - Aphorism TroubleRecently, I was told that stress in the workplace was the most significant factor in how people in workplace settings can be understood.  I disagreed, rather pointedly, but the bias of the person making this statement was too loud for other points of view and perspectives.  Although the conversation got me thinking, I present the following as my perception of stress in the workplace.

Detective 4Labeling stress as a “significant factor in the modern workplace[s]” is disingenuous at best and thoroughly deceitful at worst.  What is the purpose of the stress being experienced?  Who is experiencing stress?  How resilient is the person?  These questions and more never appear in the research on stress in the workplace, but they are fundamental to understanding stress.  Training, experience, job satisfaction, home life quality and quantity, personal physical fitness, and so forth all play roles in stress (also referred to as anxiety) in the workplace and to lump all of what is being experienced into a label such as “stress” deceives and destroys where health and growth might be occurring, except for the label stress (Garcia-Izquierdo, de Pedro, Ríos-Risquez, & Sánchez, 2018; Moore, 2018; Sok, Blomme, & Tromp, 2014; Strutton & Tran, 2014; Vanhove, Herian, Perez, Harms, & Lester, (2016).

Scared Eyes!Garcia-Izquierdo et al. (2018) researched resilience among nurses and reported connections between emotional exhaustion and cynicism and nursing professionals experiencing burnout; yet, resilience was found to have positive causal relationships to psychological health, emotional exhaustion, and cynicism.  Hence, merely presuming all stress is harmful reflects an ingrained bias against stress, and the positive and healthy aspects of stress are never mentioned or researched honestly (Strutton & Tran, 2014; Vanhove, Herian, Perez, Harms, & Lester, 2016).  The more resilient a person chooses to be, the more potential they have to harness stressors from the environment and produce positive results; thus, Strutton and Tran (2014) maintain that stress can be a positive force for good.  The conclusions present a roadmap for businesses to follow.  Leaving a question, if resilience can be learned and trained, if stress is good and through learning resilience productivity has the potential to improve, why the focus on flexible working arrangements instead of productive tasks, e.g., employee training (Strutton & Tran, 2014; Dizaho, Salleh, & Abdullah, 2017)?

Baby Blues - Good AnswerDizaho, et al. (2017) again lumped all workplace activity into the term stress, doesn’t mention employees’ resilience, or differentiated between males and females, resilient employees and less resilient employees.  Dizaho, et al. (2017) labels stress as bad and promote flexibility in the workplace as an employer issue to manage through flexible schedules, job-sharing, part-time work, shift work, telecommuting, and encouraging a work/life balance arrangement.  While some employees might need these tools due to personal choice regarding the onboarding of resilience training, it seems to me that the academic community is cheating businesses through the disingenuous lumping of all anxiety from the workplace into stress and overlooking the positive effects of stress and the causal relationship in resilience.  Leading to several questions on this topic:

      1. Why is this a business organizational problem?
      2. Where is the individual employee held accountable and responsible for their own anxiety and personal training on resilience?
      3. Dizaho, et al. (2017, p. 462) make clear concluding the problem is “paramount,” and the business organization is responsible, but why is the business organization responsible?

Male v. FemaleAnother aspect to the flexible work environments discussion brought forth and detailed by Gloor, Li, and Puhl (2018) is the inequality of treatment between the sexes in receiving flexibility in the workplace.  Females are more likely and have an easier time obtaining flexibility in working arrangements, even when García-Izquierdo (2018) reflects both male and female nurses can experience resilience, learn resilience, and all mammals can experience anxiety in some fashion or another.  Why are females treated differently by policies for flexibility in the workplace (Vanhove, et al., 2016)?  The same inequality is apparent between male and female disabled individuals as well.  As a male disabled person, the processes are skewed to females with disabilities.

ParadoxA paradox occurs when two seemingly opposing items are compared, and reality shows the articles under question are more related than different.  Anxiety in the workplace is a paradox.  Understanding this dichotomy while embracing the power and influence of resilience is part of the solution to leading an organization in fundamental change.  An essential characteristic and work circumstance that can positively affect change-induced anxiety (stress) in the workforce will be resilience (Garcia-Izquierdo, de Pedro, Ríos-Risquez, & Sánchez, 2018; Moore, 2018; Sok, Blomme, & Tromp, 2014; Strutton & Tran, 2014; Vanhove, Herian, Perez, Harms, & Lester, (2016).

Strutton and Tran (2014) laid out three different plans worthy of modeling for turning non-productive anxiety into growing and motivating stress:

      1. Leveraging anxiety through pragmatic optimism.
      2. Leveraging anxiety through constructive impatience.
      3. Leveraging anxiety through confident humility.

Strutton and Tran (2014) discussed how to mitigate the risk of workplace violence during change by examining the positive influence of tension, claiming, “too little tension may promote contentment… too much tension may promote challenges that appear too large and increases anxiety (p. 1098-1099).  Gluschkoff, Elovainio, Hintsa, Pentti, Salo, Kivimäki, & Vahtera, (2017) emphasized that rampant anxiety can lead to violence.  Gluschkoff, et al. (2017) related how well an individual sleeps is an indicator of anxiety having a negative influence in the workplace; thus, the employees need encouragement in improving how to sleep as a managerial tool for organizations experiencing fundamental change.  Hence, a mitigatory force in workplace violence is how well an employee sleeps; but this leads back to a question of employee responsibility, not organizational change.

ResilienceVanhove, et al., (2016) and Sok, et al., (2014) possess the last word on organizations in fundamental change or organization-wide changes; the need to learn resilience.  Resilience is learned through workplace programs that facilitate employees maintaining a healthy work/life balance and understanding that work spillover is not always a bad thing for employees.  Those employees with work spillover need monitoring, but that is a leadership function at all times and seasons, not just during change initiatives.  Employers and business leaders need to understand the individual nature of workplace anxiety.  The leaders must not force a one-size-fits-most policy onto the employees.  However, knowing the employees, and training employees, opens doors to evaluate employee actions towards stressors in the environment and potentially select new leaders post-change.

Calvin & Hobbes - Pragmatic PrinciplesFascinating and related to stress in the workplace was how much of the literature rejects how beneficial stress can be.  Research also appears to contradict how stress is a choice and how choosing resilience, training about resilience, and improving a person’s resilience are better actions for an employer to take than what is indicated by the lawyers, researchers, and NGO’s (Garcia-Izquierdo, et al., 2018; Gok, et al., 2016; Moore, 2018; Sok, et al., 2014; Solomon, 2003; Strutton & Tran, 2014; Vanhove, et al., 2016; Zabawa, 2017).  Workplace stress is rarely, if ever, considered beneficial, but the research always wants to hold the employer responsible for reducing stress.  Frankly, I was appalled that the employer would be given more power over the employee’s life (IRS.gov, 2018).

Leaving me with questions:

      1. If the employer is responsible for employee stress, what about the employee’s role in choosing healthier emotional responses (Solomon, 2003)?
      2. What about employee responsibility and accountability for their own health, mental, physical, and spiritual (Garcia-Izquierdo, et al., 2018)?

BiasArnulf, Larsen, Martinsen, and Bong (2014) detailed how internal bias predicts results; thus, we can discount most stress-related research as nothing more than bias magnified and personal opinion presented as research, how the research questions are formed dictates the answer that will be arrived at when the study concludes.  Of all the topics I have learned and relearned, the need to question everything, ask more questions, and become ever more selective in the materials I cite has been confirmed.  Interestingly, the more I think I know, the more sure I become that I do not know anything; but, I want to learn so much more.

References

Arnulf, J. K., Larsen, K. R., Martinsen, Ø. L., & Bong, C. H. (2014). Predicting survey responses: How and why semantics shape survey statistics on organizational behaviour. PloS One, 9(9), e106361. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0106361

Dizaho, E. K., Salleh, R., & Abdullah, A. (2017). Achieving work life balance through flexible work schedules and arrangements. Global Business and Management Research, 9(1), 455-465. Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.contentproxy.phoenix.edu/docview/1903433226?accountid=35812

García-Izquierdo, M., de Pedro, M. M., Ríos-Risquez, M. I., & Sánchez, M. I. S. (2018). Resilience as a moderator of psychological health in situations of chronic stress (burnout) in a sample of hospital nurses. Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 50(2), 228-236. doi: http://dx.doi.org.contentproxy.phoenix.edu/10.1111/jnu.12367

Gloor, J. L., Li, X., & Puhl, R. M. (2018). Predictors of parental leave support: Bad news for (big) dads and a policy for equality. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 21(5), 810-830. doi:10.1177/1368430217751630

Gluschkoff, K., Elovainio, M., Hintsa, T., Pentti, J., Salo, P., Kivimäki, M., & Vahtera, J. (2017). Organisational justice protects against the negative effect of workplace violence on teachers’ sleep: A longitudinal cohort study. Occup Environ Med, oemed-2016.

Gok, K., Sumanth, J. J., Bommer, W. H., Demirtas, O., Arslan, A., Eberhard, J., … & Yigit, A. (2017). You may not reap what you sow: How employees’ moral awareness minimizes ethical leadership’s positive impact on workplace deviance. Journal of Business Ethics, 146(2), 257-277.

Moore, P. V. (2018). Tracking affective labour for agility in the quantified workplace. Body & Society, 24(3), 39-67. doi:10.1177/1357034X18775203

Purcell, N., Shovein, E., Hebenstreit, C., & Drexler, M. (2017). Violence in a US Veterans Affairs healthcare system: worker perspectives on prevalence, causes, and contributors. Policy and Practice in Health and Safety, 15(1), 38-56.

Sok, J., Blomme, R., & Tromp, D. (2014). Positive and Negative Spillover from Work to Home: The Role of Organizational Culture and Supportive Arrangements. British Journal of Management, 25(3), 456–472. https://doi-org.contentproxy.phoenix.edu/10.1111/1467-8551.12058

Solomon, R. C. (2003). Not passion’s slave: Emotions and choice [Kindle 6.10 version].

Strutton, D., & A. Tran, G. (2014). How to convert bad stress into good. Management Research Review, 37(12), 1093-1109. doi:10.1108/MRR-06-2013-0139

  1. S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS.gov) (2018). Independent contractor vs. employee. Available from http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small/article/0,id=99921,00.html
  2. S. Internal RevenueService (IRS.gov). (2018). The Agency, its Mission and Statutory Authority. Retrieved from http://www.irs.gov/irs/article/0,,id=98141,00.html

Vanhove, A. J., Herian, M. N., Perez, A. L. U., Harms, P. D., & Lester, P. B. (2016). Can resilience be developed at work? A meta-analytic review of resilience-building programme effectiveness. Journal of Occupational & Organizational Psychology, 89(2), 278–307. https://doi-org.contentproxy.phoenix.edu/10.1111/joop.12123

Zabawa, B. J. (2017, November 14). Using the law to reduce worker stress – WELCOA. Retrieved from https://www.welcoa.org/blog/using-law-reduce-worker-stress/

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.