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Slapping out of stress

Slapping out of stress
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First Published: Sat, Oct 31 2009. 12 21 AM IST
Updated: Sat, Oct 31 2009. 12 21 AM IST
Friday morning is among the most joyous moments of the working week, is it not? You know, as soon as you leap out of bed on Friday morning, that the great office worker’s panacea, the weekend, is just a working day away.
So it must seem the most improbable day to discuss the troublesome issue of stress in the Indian workplace. But an interesting new research report came out earlier this fortnight and I decided immediately that we must chat about this on Cubiclenama.
The report, brought out by staffing company TeamLease Services, is called Stress at Workplace and is part of a larger India’s New World of Work series. In this study, researchers rang up 400 office-goers in various cities all over India and then asked them various questions about stress in office.
Is stress a good thing in your office? What causes this stress? Given this information, how does this stress manifest itself in you? Very good. And how do you cope with this stress? Oh, I am sorry to hear that. Can you give the phone to daddy or mummy please?
And so on.
Now I am quite a sceptic when it comes to most of these workplace surveys. I reserve particular spite for those “best people to work for” surveys: “Most Admired Medium-Small IT Product Design Employer In India 2009—Jury Special Award for Company Sponsoring The Jury Special Award” and all that.
Many years ago, I was asked to administer one of these surveys, for internal uses in a factory. Our first attempt was a disaster because we forgot to tell everyone which ends of the scale, 1 to 5, was best and worst. So we had to redo the whole survey again with new forms.
And voila! we got exactly the same results again.
My lasting memory is of the final survey presentation to the management committee where we spent 4 hours debating whether a 3 on 5 is “average”, “medium” or some such term indicating mediocrity. (We had a lot of 3 on 5 scores.)
Finally, the CEO recalibrated the scale. Henceforth 1 was “Terrible”, 3 became “Very Good” and 5 became “Beyond World Class”. We celebrated with an off-site to a water park.
But the Stress@Work survey was nothing like that, of course. There were no company names involved and so you could say that it was bias-free.
So what do the results say?
Apparently, 61% of all respondents across the country felt that stress at the workplace was a healthy phenomenon. Amazingly enough, it was exactly this 61% who admitted to needing therapy of some kind. OK, kidding.
Seriously speaking, Bangaloreans, it appears, are suckers for punishment. A whopping 75% of Bangalore respondents thought that stress was a good thing, the highest for any of the cities surveyed. (In terms of functional areas, Sales and Marketing had the highest proportion, 65%, who said stress was a healthy thing. The department that dislikes stress most, it turns out, is HR and Admin.)
Some of the top generators of stress included that perennial spoilsport—“Amount of work to performed”, “Managing others’ work”, “Keeping up with technology” and finally “Attitude of spouse/partner”.
The last of which explains this phenomenon: Over 75% did not think that taking work home caused any kind of stress. Shudder. But the standout statistic for me was from the section on how people reacted to this stress: Around 27% respondents admitted to having HIT SOMEONE when under stress. Nothing like some good old palm meets face to get over stress.
And how do people cope with this stress? Do they go on holidays? Find new jobs? Not at all. In fact those two options were among the least popular. The most popular one, with 75% response, was “Recognizing one’s limitations at work and rectifying them”.
Ladies and gentlemen, it appears we are a nation of stress-loving, self-blaming, occasionally slapping workaholics who think little of carrying briefcases full of work home.
In parting, I’d like to leave you with this unique method of stress management I was once taught by a much senior colleague years ago on my first job. One day, I spotted him hunched over his computer typing out a long, detailed resignation letter. Later that evening, I asked if he was going to?quit. He said that he was not and then explained his way of handling pressure.
Every time office pressure got to him, he’d spend an hour, write a resignation letter, vent his pains, and then save it somewhere secret on his computer. Without showing a soul.
Later, when things got better, he’d go back and read his old cache of resignation letters and have a jolly good laugh. And he’d go back to work feeling better. At the time I thought it was a weird idea. But now I am older, wiser and carry a 16GB pen drive with me at all times.
How do you cope with stress? With slapping? Send us pictures.
Cubiclenama takes a fortnightly look at the pleasures and perils of corporate life. Your comments are welcome at cubiclenama@livemint.com
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First Published: Sat, Oct 31 2009. 12 21 AM IST