Stress costs the US economy $300 Billion every year in lost productivity, insurance claims, health costs, accidents and the need to replace workers according to the American Society of Stress.

Stress is far worse than pressure. Pressure is when you are asked to do something you enjoy but do it faster. Most of us are OK with this, at least over a short period.

But stress is when your job requires you to do something that is not naturally you. Such as an engineer type who is talked into a sales career. Engineers simply don’t have the natural motivators required to approach new customers, obtain a meeting, handle objections and pursue the deal like a terrier till the close.

Another example is the networker/account manager type who somehow goes into product development. They’ll be permanently miserable. Their brains are wired into people, behaviour, body language, office politics, power bases, influencers and the like. They cannot happily base their lives around software coding, car design or home furnishing trends no matter how hard they try.

Every team in the world – unless it is blessed by pure luck – contains a high proportion of people, typically 70% according to Gallup, who are not doing the work their brains were made for. These people are under stress, to a greater or lesser extent, all the time. For them, there is no escape. Work is a prison which they must tolerate or even pretend to enjoy.

Not only that, they are condemned to taking their stress home with them. This spreads the poison around partners, children, parents and friends. The ripple effect means that for every person in the wrong job, dozens are affected.

When organizations build teams that work, however, people get a double benefit.

The first is that they start to move towards the kind of work for which they were wired at birth. They can still make use of all their skills and qualifications, but they are now using them in a manner which tallies with their natural strengths and talents.

The second is that they find themselves in a team where everyone is similarly engaged. Consider how it feels to move from a dysfunctional team, where complaints and back-biting are common, to one where everyone is doing work they genuinely enjoy and handing off the bits they don’t enjoy to people who were made for that.

It’s like a smoky, noisy engine, where the parts were badly assembled, becoming a quiet low-maintenance machine that works at full power all the time. There’s no friction and the productivity is high.

Every organization can easily build teams that work. It costs just a fraction of the gain in productivity and it results in a workforce that not only love coming to work but carry out their work to a very high quality. Let’s kick stress out the door.


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