Stressed Out

Is Reducing Anxiety the Key to organizational Success?


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If you’re a manager at a finishing job shop or an in-house finishing organization, you may think the most important aspect of your job is getting the highest number of quality parts out the door at the lowest possible cost.

But you’d be wrong, according to business consultant Jeffrey A. Miller and his book: Leading in the Age of Anxiety: Six Ways to Manage Your Own Anxiety, Calm Down Your Employees...and Save Your Company. Not surprisingly, he thinks Job One for leaders in any organization is stress management.

According to Miller, chronic elevated anxiety in any organization can have severe repercussions, and most organizations are at risk. The good news, he says, is that it takes only one person to break the cycle and turn a whole company around.

There’s little doubt that stress levels at a lot of companies are high. An uncertain economy, the need to continually do more with less, and increased competition see to that.

“When people stay in low-grade panic mode, they can no longer think clearly, creatively and flexibly,” Miller explains. “They make irrational decisions. When irrational decisions start adding up, the company isn’t long for this world.”

Some anxiety in the workplace is normal and even desirable, Miller points out, but when the anxiety in an organization rises to an excessive level, employees can become like a herd of stampeding wildebeests. “It goes back to our primitive survival instincts—fight or flight,” he says. “All organizations face threats, both internal and external, and anxiety is an instinctive response to any threat to one’s survival.”

And it’s contagious, Miller adds. Like an infectious disease, anxiety can be passed from one worker to another. “Maybe the anxious employees succumb to group-think and run their company off the proverbial cliff,” he says. “Employees who can’t take the stress any longer may start leaving the company. Or maybe people are fired to ‘solve the problem,’ which only reappears later because the system that caused the problem hasn’t really changed.”

Because anxiety is a complex phenomenon, Miller says many companies need professional help in identifying its permutations and sorting out its root causes. The good news is it takes only one person to break the cycle. “Because everyone in an organization is connected, you can’t change your own behavior without changing the entire system,” he explains. “When you make an effort to rise above your own anxiety, you may start a ‘ripple effect’ that transforms your entire organization.

“Sometimes these changes are subtle; sometimes they’re profound,” he continues. “Either way, taking responsibility for yourself—giving up the need to blame or control others—actually requires a tremendous amount of courage. And when enough people are able to manage their anxiety and find this kind of courage, well, that’s the formula for a successful organization.”

OK, take a nice deep breath, hold it for a couple of seconds, and let it out nice and slow.
Feel better? Good. Now go get ‘em!