Kon Ferry Institute published a report in November 2018 on work stress. Survey respondents included Corporate Americans. I urge you to pause, read the statistics and let the reality sink in.
More than three-quarters of the respondents, 76%, say stress at work has had a negative impact on their personal relationships, and 66% say they have lost sleep due to work stress. A small but significant number, 16%, say they’ve had to quit a job due to stress.
Many people have shared with me stories of conference rooms mimicking war rooms. Something is declared as a ‘work emergency’ or ‘fire fight’. Many entry level analysts admitted that such messaging would often elevate the level of stress they felt on a daily basis
Work emergency is a weed that has spread across Corporate America. I am here to make a case for weed control.
Emergency, as defined by Merriam Webster — “a serious, unexpected, and often dangerous situation requiring immediate action.”
Pause, breathe and let the definition sink in.
So here are a few questions to help reacquaint you with the concept of emergency.
Is someone’s life or well-being at ‘immediate’ peril?
Has someone close to you been diagnosed with an illness and needs your immediate physical presence and support?
Is the stock market crashing, likely to crash or has crashed?
Did you spill a glass of your favorite red? Ok, I digress, you get the picture.
So, above are a few of the many questions you can ask yourself before declaring anything an emergency for your team.
If the answer to all the questions is ‘No’ — IT IS NOT AN EMERGENCY.
All right, so now that we have established a clear definition of an emergency, let us take a moment to acknowledge the many people around the world who DO deal with emergencies on a daily basis.
Some people I have had the privilege of knowing are doctors who take graveyard shifts and work tirelessly to do all that they can medically and emotionally for their patients. The decisions they take — those are emergencies.
I have had the privilege of being part of organizations, such as The Trevor Project, which operates a crisis helpline to provide a fighting chance to at risk youth. The calls they get — those are emergencies.
Organizations such as United Nations and International Rescue Committee support the rehabilitation of refugees — those are physical and mental emergencies.
People who serve in armed forces — I do not even need to expound on this one.
Not all of us have the opportunity, or the courage to contribute to the society in jobs that allow us to make the world a better, safer and happier place.
However, in whatever job you do, if you can TRY set a precedent to calmly handle a client or a boss, without an unjustified and unnecessary pressure of ‘emergency’ or ‘fire fight’ — I urge you, do it.
Unless you — yes you, the top leaders — start taking small steps in changing the way we live our work lives, we will be stuck in an endless loop of meaningless fake emergencies. In that loop, we forget that life can be lived in a balance.
All it takes is one precedent.
You will earn the respect of your team like never before and teach your team, by example, to treat their teams a little better. It is a ripple effect — and it is beautiful.
Rome was not built in a day, nor can the culture of work emergencies be changed in a day. However, one constructive step will create a ripple for change and it will only grow bigger from hereon out.
If you push back maybe 2 out of 10 times, on what you would generally declare a ‘work emergency’, the sun will still rise tomorrow.