Time to front re­al­ity

We need to be hon­est about stress at work, re­ports Ben Pike

The Advertiser - Careers - - Front Page -

SE­NIOR ex­ec­u­tives’ pro­duc­tiv­ity, well­be­ing and ca­reer longevity is be­ing com­pro­mised by their un­will­ing­ness to con­front per­sonal is­sues head-on.

Strug­gling un­der the strain of com­pet­ing fi­nan­cial, fam­ily, time and so­cial pres­sures, se­nior staff are too quick to dis­miss le­git­i­mate per­sonal is­sues for fear of ap­pear­ing weak among their team or other ex­ec­u­tives, ac­cord­ing to ex­ec­u­tive coach Karen Barker.

While this stoic at­ti­tude is ef­fec­tive in the short-term, Barker says this will ul­ti­mately re­sult in burnout if the is­sues are not ad­dressed.

‘‘ So many high achiev­ers think they can do it on their own,’’ she says.

‘‘ Mar­riage, di­vorce, health and kids; those se­nior ex­ec­u­tives who are re­spon­si­ble for large teams and pretty big chunks of the busi­ness are find­ing them­selves limp­ing along and need­ing to veil that. They’re quite fear­ful of be­ing judged un­kindly.

‘‘ I’ve been in the coach­ing space for four years. I’m see­ing more of it in the last cou­ple of years than even when I first started in coach­ing.’’

The high­est rates of men­tal stress claims in Aus­tralia are by work­ers with high lev­els of re­spon­si­bil­ity for the well­be­ing and safety of oth­ers or work­ers at risk in danger­ous sit­u­a­tions.

The Safe Work Aus­tralia re­port, re­leased in April, also finds men­tal stress costs Aus­tralian busi­nesses more than $10 bil­lion a year.

Barker says the rise in stress among ex­ec­u­tive staff is driven by in­creased work­loads, allper­va­sive tech­nol­ogy and the re­tire­ment of ex­pe­ri­enced, man­age­rial baby boomers.

She ad­vises se­nior staff not to fear ask­ing for more re­sources at work if they are needed. They should also talk to some­one re­moved from per­sonal or fam­ily is­sues and, if stress starts af­fect­ing their work or health, con­sult a GP.

‘‘ The age in the top-tier level is younger and they haven’t got the wrin­kles and haven’t been around the block as many times,’’ she says.

‘‘ They don’t have this life skill yet, don’t have the con­fi­dence yet and don’t own the space like they will in five or 10 years’ time.

‘‘ Some or­gan­i­sa­tions are shut­ting down servers for up to nine hours to give ex­ec­u­tives (rest from) emails.’’

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