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Posts Tagged ‘Whitehall Study’

Man-Made And Person-Specific

January 9, 2013 Leave a comment

George Pransky taught (err, finally convinced) BD00 that all stress is man-made and person-specific. One person’s stress is another’s exhilaration. Nevertheless, environmental and situational factors probably do influence stress levels to some extent, no?

One would think that as one ascends the ladder in a hierarchical institution, his/her stress levels increase with rank, stature, and responsibility. This may be true in general, but there is some research evidence to the contrary:

No Sweat: Less Stress in Higher Ranks. “..this study suggests that those who manage others actually experience less stress — as measured through both biological and psychological assessments — than non-leaders. In fact, the stress level seems to go down as executives climb up the corporate ladder. Leaders with more authority, and more freedom to delegate day-to-day oversight, do better on this front than managers below them.”

The Whitehall Study. “The Whitehall cohort studies found a strong association between grade levels of civil servant employment and mortality rates from a range of causes. Men in the lowest grade (messengers, doorkeepers, etc.) had a mortality rate three times higher than that of men in the highest grade (administrators).”

It all comes down to “control“. If you believe (like BD00 does) in William T. Powers’ Perceptual Control Theory (that every living being is an aggregation of thousands of little control systems interconnected for the purpose of achieving prosperous survival), then the results make sense. It’s simply that people in the higher ranks have more “control” over their environment than those below them.

Stress Curves

Of course, take this post (along with all other BD00 posts) with a carafe of salt. He likes to make up stuff that confirms his UCB by carefully stitching together corroborating evidence while filtering out all disconfirmatory evidence. But wait! You do that too, no?

Every man, wherever he goes, is encompassed by a cloud of comforting convictions, which move with him like flies on a summer day. – Bertrand Russell

Healthy And Stress Free

January 11, 2011 Leave a comment

Via the Netflix “Watch Instantly” service, I recently viewed this wonderful and scary National Geographic documentary: “Stress: Portrait Of A Killer“. The program focused on the results of these two studies:

  • A thirty year study on African baboon troupes by a dedicated Stanford University professor.
  • A forty year study, called the “Whitehall Study“, on 18,000 British civil service employees  (hint: hierarchy)

Ready to be surprised? In both studies, the results showed that the higher up in the hierarchy you ascend, the healthier and less stressed you become. Yepp, that’s right. Fuggedabout the crap that’s been drilled into your brain about the increased stress that comes with the so-called increase in “responsibility” as one ascends the corpo ladder. The reality is that the higher up you go:

  • the more titles you accumulate (for your impressive LinkedIn profile),
  • the more money you make for taking on more responsibility that you’re not held accountable for,
  • the less “dirty and visible work” you have to do, uh, except for aimless and agenda-less meetings where you toot your own horn over others,
  • the more control over “others” you have – to deflect blame when you screw up – which you never do.

How can that be stressful and detrimental to your health? By all means fellow DICsters, keep scratchin’ and clawin’ your way toward the top. It’s healthy fer ya.

I actually wasn’t surprised by the show. Well over 20 years ago, friend and mentor William L. Livingston opened my eyes to the Whitehall study results in his epically disturbing  “Have Fun At Work” book. It stunned me back then, but makes me laugh now.

To be fair, I have no doubt that there are many non-BMs in hierachical DYSCOs who do feel the increased stress their job should bring on. These are the people who thoughtfully and endlessly struggle with the conflicting demands of the wide ranging set of stakeholders who have an interest in the org’s economic and social performance. Thankfully, I have known, and do know, some of these people. How about you?

Note: If you want more detail on the documentary, check out my notes plus audio livescribe pencast on the program here.

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