Brad was an incredibly bright young executive with a very promising future. Ever since graduating college, he seemed to take on increased responsibilities in his company like a duck to water. He married his college sweetheart, Nancy, right after graduation and has two small children. Brad's talent didn't go unnoticed in the industry, with several competitors approaching Brad about his willingness to join another firm. He steadfastly resisted, that is until the offer of all offers came his way.
Cantata Group, a larger and more prominent competitor to his current company, wined and dined Brad and ultimately offered him a VP position with a higher salary and better benefits. The offer was too good to pass up so Brad talked with Nancy about the job and they both became enamored with how this was going to advance Brad's career and what they would be able to do with the extra money. Brad joyfully accepted Cantata's offer, gave his current company two weeks' notice, and started in his new VP role.
Within a year of joining Cantata, he noticed some unexpected side effects of his new position. He was required to be in weekly global executive virtual meetings which could happen at any time of the day or night. He was routinely working 60+ hours a week, missing dinner with Nancy and the kids. He traveled at least once a week, many times to put out fires at clients. His eating habits were horrendous and he wasn't exercising due to his schedule. He began putting on weight. Nancy was frustrated with him not being around and his kids missed their daddy. The stress was unbearable and led to Brad one day grabbing his chest and collapsing during a customer meeting.
While the above story about Brad is fictional, each one of us knows of a Brad (or perhaps is Brad) who made a career choice without considering the effects of the extra stress. The American Institute of Stress (yes there is such an organization) has quantified the cost of stress to employers at $300 billion annually due to things such as absenteeism, accidents, turnover, diminished productivity, and medical costs. Add to that the personal costs of stress (i.e., poor health, weight gain/loss, sleep deprivation) and the relationship costs of stress (i.e., fractured relationships, friends or loved ones alienation, missed school plays), and you have a perfect storm of negative factors which make any kind of work-life balance virtually impossible to attain. In my 30 years of working with career professionals, stress typically takes a back seat to compensation and when considered, it is usually only a slice of the true stress level that the professional will endure. In the first ten years of my own career I saw stress as a given and gave it no consideration when evaluating career alternatives. This was a big mistake and a lesson I learned the hard way. Fortunately I learned it early in my career and was able to make some positive changes. However, some professionals never get it.
To help the professional evaluate the impact of stress when deciding on a career change, I've defined a comparative increase/decrease method to evaluate the impact of stress, based on three stress types:
(a) Relationship Stress
(b) Work Stress
(c) Personal Stress
For each stress type, a qualitative degree of stress is defined as follows:
1 - Minimal Stress
2 - Moderate Stress
3 - Significant Stress
In evaluating the impact of stress, each of the three stress types is assigned a value for the current and new job alternatives, then a comparative increase/decrease assessment is derived for each stress type. Let's put this to an example.
Lets say that a systems analyst (I'll call her Ann) is currently in a job paying $90,000/year and she's been offered a new position paying $100,000/year. On the surface, Ann likes the idea of a $10k raise and looks at the three stress types for each job, as follows:
When you look at the three stress types the following pops out about the new position:
Ann is now faced with the following decision: Is the salary bump of $10k worth the incremental relationship, personal and work stress she'll endure? Depending on whatever other decision criteria Ann factors into her decision, the answer could be yes or no. Whether or not she takes the job is still her decision; what the process has done is forced her to consider the three stress types and derive data points in which she can use in her overall decision-making.
When faced with your next career decision, follow these five steps to assess your impact of stress and help you decide on your career choice course of action:
Remember, the real benefit in utilizing the impact of stress methodology is in the discovery process you'll go through to understand relationship, personal, and work stress drivers for different career choices. Be real with yourself as to how a career choice will affect you and those you love.
Keynote Speaker | Board Director | Autism Advocate | Author | Project Management Expert | Microsoft/Accenture Veteran
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1/13/2015 04:23:20 am
Great article , where human stress is evaluated rationally during a job hunt
1/11/2018 04:31:07 am
Choosing the right career is a great decision that an individual ever takes. Obviously, he will feel stressed while making his career decisions. Listen- stress is one of such factor that usually occurs when you start progressing towards your aim or ambition. From my perspective, stress is nothing but a feeling of worry that basically distracts you and reduces your potentiality to think effectively about the resolution in your hand and ultimately enhances your dependency on spontaneous thinking. I don't think it can be possible for you to make the right call about your profession without executing the stress management game plan. So, it will be better for you, if you learn the stress management tactics and hire a competent career coach, by which you can make the most productive career decision.
7/7/2019 11:04:17 pm
Very good insights
4/8/2020 07:41:07 am
Hi Lonnie - this is a great article. I doubt that very many people ever put pen to paper to explore the changes in stress levels associated with taking on a new professional position. I think that traditionally, everyone has a feel that there will be an adjustment period. And usually, after the first 100 days they expect things to have arrived at the new normal. I like the assessment you have outlined and I wonder if it makes sense to think about how you would mitigate each of these increased stress levels like a risk; a risk to you overall well-being. That might help the decision-maker come up with a list of mitigation steps that could either make them feel reasonably comfortable with the change - or, less excited about accepting the role. Eithery way - it does lay the ground-work for a more realistic approach to "knowing what you are getting yourself into".
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