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Stress in the Workplace

Organizational Rank & Stress

Who do you think is more stressed in your company? The executive or the supervisor? Although it seems logical that with more responsibility comes more stress and a greater chance of stress-related disease, scientists now know that "executive stress syndrome " is a myth.

In a famous study known as Whitehall I and II that began in 1967, scientists have been investigating the social determinants of health. In particular, the study explores the prevalence of cardiovascular disease and mortality rates among British Civil servants.

To the surprise of many, they have found a link between an employee's grade level or position and the prevalence of obesity, smoking, reduced leisure time, high blood pressure and general lack of wellbeing. In other words, one's rank may be a factor that influences health.

The explanation for the findings, according to Robert Sapolsky, Stanford Professor and author of the book, Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers, is that unlike executives, supervisors and middle managers have responsibility but not the authority and control.

Put Yourself in the Driver's Seat

What's the stressed out supervisor to do short of becoming the boss? One answer is to develop a skill that you enjoy outside of work that will give you a sense of recognition, control and satisfaction. Become a community leader, or start a special interest group. Volunteer the same skills you use at work to help others. One woman, a tax accountant, volunteers her time during the tax season. People come to the community center to get help or ask basic questions. The volunteer work has strengthened her sense of belonging to the community.

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