We’ll stick our necks out and bet that as a manager, at some point you or someone on your team has experienced stress.
It’s a generic and not particularly helpful term. We know what we mean when we say it, but it’s not always very clear what to do about it.
This week Dan Shipper, an entrepreneur and writer, published an article on stress drawing from the work of Robert M. Sapolsky, a stress researcher. Often articles like this are too general, and somewhat patronising (‘have you considered working less and sleeping more?’), but we were pleasantly surprised.
According to Shipper, Sapolsky’s work focuses on observing stress in animals - the title of his book is Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers - and then learning lessons for humans about whether stress is bad and what we should do about it. His answer:
“it’s great to push yourself—but you should be paying attention to the signs that tell you that you need a break. And it’s to give yourself plenty of ways to manage stress while you’re going through it, so that it doesn’t affect you as badly as it could… Stress isn’t mathematical. Expose the same person to the same stressor and they will have different stress responses based on their coping strategies.”
What we found really interesting was that the coping measures he suggested chimed with our experience of managing stress (even if we didn’t realise we were following scientific advice at the time). They’re a good reminder of practices you can observe and may be able to suggest to your team.