Tough Economy? Smart Managers Dial the Stress Level Down, Not Up

The knee-jerk response to cost-reduction pressures in an economicdownturn is turn up the heat to wring greater productivity out of yourwork force. This is not your best option, and will hurt more than help.

A smarter approach is to get more out of your people by tapping intowhat people really care about, in all parts of their lives. When you dothis — for real, not just as window dressing for some faux socialwelfare program — you not only reduce stress, you decrease time wastedon activities that don’t matter, boost trust with the company, andbuild resilience.

Contrast these three approaches you might take as a manager of a solid performer when times are tough:

"Hey Sarah, we’re having a bad year, so if you wantany kind of bonus at all, you’re going to have to suck it up and workharder than ever before. Sorry, I know it’s tough, but that’s just thereality."

"Hey Sarah, I know that there’s a lot ofpressure on you now, on all of us, really, and I want to make sureyou’re getting it all done. Let me know how I can help."

"HeySarah, I know that there’s a lot of pressure on you now, on all of us,really, and I want to make sure you’re taking care of all the thingsthat are important to you, so that you don’t burn out during thisespecially intense period. What ideas do you have about small changesin how things get done that you can try to make life a little easier –so that you have the strength and focus you need now to perform wellfor our business, which desperately needs your best efforts?"

The first option helps Sarah face and hopefully deal with the harshreality, and that’s an essential part of your job as her manager.You’ve also tied economic incentives to her performance, though thecriteria for achievement are based not on results but instead onbehavior–often a wasteful allocation of pay. But you’ve not dealt withwhatever Sarah’s got going on in her life, and so the burnout risk ishigh.

The second option shows your empathy, to a degree, and your generalinterest in being supportive, but it’s passive and vague so it’s notlikely to change Sarah’s actions, nor have her feel that you’re seriousabout providing real support.

The third option has the best chance of producing the results you want from Sarah.You’re acknowledging the pressure and you’re thinking of Sarah as aperson, not just an employee. This caring approach will likely bereturned with loyalty and extraordinary effort. You’re expressing theexpectation that she’s going to have practical ideas for performanceimprovements that are rooted in her having a better life and greateropportunity to get done what’s most important to her, sending themessage that you want to hear those ideas and that you’re willing totry them. The risks are low because you’re not telling Sarah she can dowhatever she wants, only that you’re willing to try new ways of gettingthings done that are good for her and for your business.

On top of these benefits, when you convey this expectation acrossthe board, you’re creating an opportunity to see who among youremployees responds best to a crisis by innovating with how things getdone–more data for your assessment of their respective advancementpotential.

Most importantly, though, when you take this approach you’relikely to see improved satisfaction and performance in all parts oflife, including work. My research team and I foundthat when people undertake smart experiments designed to produce what Icall "four-way wins" — intended benefits for work, home, community,and self (mind, body, and spirit) — they shift some of their attentionfrom work and dedicate it to the other domains. Yet their satisfactionand performance in all domains, including work, goes up. The paradox:You get more out of people at work the more you pay attention to theirlives beyond work. This is especially important in times of greatstress, when pressures in the domains of family, self and community canbe particularly acute.

Hillary Stops Roll-Call, Barack Officially the Nominee

After a truly amazing speech endorsing her former opponent Barack Obama yesterday, Hillary today put an end to the last bid by her supporters to have a roll-call vote for her candidacy at the convention – according to The Chicago Tribune.

6:49 pm — The deed is almost done. Clinton moves that
a voice vote be taken and that the roll call be stopped. The crowd
seconds. Nancy Pelosi asks for the ayes, and slams the gavel down
before the nos can be heard. It’s official.

Barack was then officially nominated by an enthusiastic acclamation from the convention Dems.

Boy oh boy – and we thought it would never end. Perhaps Democrats can now finally put this behind them and focus on the real battle ahead – defeating John McCain in November.


A year ago, I was asked by a friend from a virtual community to which I then belonged if I could answer ten questions that he had posted on his website, the URL of which I now forget.

At the outset, I made it very clear that I did not possess answers to everything and could only comment on the basis of my limited experience and understanding of the questions posed by my dear friend.

The first question posed was a rather cheeky one.

Duality: Within and Without

Within and without,

inside and outside.

Within The body and out,

two worlds abide.


The world inside,

both wondrous and rapturous.

The world outside,

both illusory and sensuous.



Go into your world,

and pray in the dark.

Learn to be bold,

see the light and the mark.



Go out unto the world,

and labour in the dark.

Learn not to be told,

see the good and the stark.



Within and without,

both are the same.

Journey without doubt,

and play a clean game.