Really? How can that that be true? The media is full of articles about stress. Surely every civilized employer knows the damage that work-related pressure can cause. Why else would we have counselors, employee assistance programmes and specially-trained HR professionals? Not to mention litigation …

To stress something is a viable construct. But it’s a verb – not a noun. Stress, when considered alone cannot exist. It’s an abstraction. My reaction to the world in which I live is not the same as yours. In fact it’s not quite the same as anyone’s.

Whether the demands of the situation exceed my capacity to cope is a complex interaction between my biology, my formative experiences, my skills, my thoughts, my beliefs and my desires. It’s a fundamental expression of all that I am and all that I hold to be important. To simply say that I am a casualty of stress just makes me a victim – a passive agent in a sea of change. But I’m more than that. I am an individual and it’s here that progressive organisations need focus.

This isn’t a narcissistic plea for the world to be arranged around me – or anyone else for that matter – but it is a call for an intelligent debate. If we were to spend more time considering in depth the expectations we have of particular roles at particular times and relax our outdated industrial age obsessions with spurious notions of uniformity, consistency and control, that might help. If we were also prepared to really understand the motives, talents, hopes, fears and expectations of each person in our organisation, that wouldn’t do any harm either. But, if we were to carefully bring the two together and consider, person by person, the degree of fit, we might just see a lot less being written about stress!

About Chris Welford