Here’s a little flash of insight for you harried entrepreneurs.
Many of you may be trying to oversee your business while secretly contemplating lopping off the heads of your poor workers. (Don’t fib!)
Maybe your in the throes of a stressful situation with a client or feeling the weight of financial burdens nipping at your heels.
Meanwhile you’re looking at your awesome workers and feeling a mild case of resentment because they don’t have to worry about that stuff.
Time to slow your roll!
Unfortunately, they feel your stress too, probably even more than you do.
So forget your preconceived notions about stressed-out bosses tearing their hair out.
Science is telling us that business leaders actually have less stress and anxiety than their subordinates.
The journal “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences” even made it official by publishing their findings in a study entitled “Leadership is Associated with Lower Levels of Stress” in October 2012. (And you thought I was telling a story, oh ye doubtful one.)
The study was a collaborative effort of researchers from Stanford University, Harvard University and the University of California, San Diego.
Stress in All Species
Researchers compared levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, from the saliva of bosses and workers to reach their conclusions.
Studies previously performed on rhesus macaque monkeys also used cortisol to measure stress and found that monkeys with higher social ranks had lower levels of the stress hormone. (How’s that for further confirmation? Even monkey leaders have it easier than their subordinates.)
While the results of these studies show a correlation, no specific causation has been proven.
The abstract for the study indicates that the researchers believe that-
“If leaders also experience a heightened sense of control – a physiological factor known to have powerful stress-buffering effects – leadership should be associated with reduced stress levels.”
In fact, leaders consistently had lower stress levels than subordinates.
Furthermore, among these leaders, the higher level leaders consistently had lower stress levels than lower level leaders. (Now trying saying that three times fast.)
Relaxing the Workplace
In the real world, not many high-level leaders are transparent about their process and results. Bob Parsons, CEO of GoDaddy.com, doesn’t shy away from saying that he certainly doesn’t let his business control him.
“I always buffer work with play,” he told Inc. magazine. “I am always telling my staff members to lighten up and to get off their BlackBerries. I have one but I am not controlled by it.”
CEO Parsons is able to make time for himself because he accomplishes “everything through other people.”
By making the right hiring decisions and trusting in his staff, Parsons can concentrate on advertising for GoDaddy, take time to stop by one of the two motorcycle dealerships he owns, or just get away for a few days.
For low-level workers, life is rarely so freewheeling.
In a 2007 poll, the American Psychological Association found that work is a “significant source of stress” for 75 percent of Americans.
The same study revealed that 50 percent of respondents believed their work productivity was negatively impacted by stress.
According to the Mayo Clinic, excessive stress can have severe consequences both physically and psychologically. One common source of stress at work is overload, the perception (or reality) of having too much to do.
“Over time, small, persistent stressors can wreak more havoc than sudden, devastating events do.”
Such a strong correlation between stress levels and leadership is pretty damn hard to argue with. Every business and company culture is unique.
Some lower-level workers may be lucky enough to operate in a low-stress environment, free from micro-management and encouraged to take ownership of their workday.
For less fortunate folks, stress management is crucial.
Identifying stress triggers and creating healthy coping mechanisms can help get harried workers get through their time in the trenches until they move on up to a higher leadership (and less stressful) role.
Moral of the story?
If you’re an entrepreneur blessed to run your own business and employ people to help you do so… have a little mercy will ya?
As much pressure as you feel like you may be under, it’s a sure bet your workers are feeling it double-time.
Time for group hugs perhaps?
Over to You
Are you feeling like your under a lot of pressure or stress in your business? Do you find yourself taking it out a wee bit on your workers at times? What could you do to make this situation better for all involved? Do share your thoughts in the comments below!