by Brandon Reiter
Don’t panic! While there is strong evidence that says yes, you can die early due to stress on the job, there are very different kinds of job “stress”. The point of this post is to help identify what causes you the most stress at work and understand what type of stress is the most dangerous.
Stop me if you’ve had this conversation before… you’re meeting up with your old college buddy at happy hour and they ask, “so, how’s work?” You scoff, do a little shrug, and robotically respond “It’s work.”
After a brief awkward pause you remember you should probably ask them the same thing so you return the favor, “What about you?” Your friend let’s out an identical scoff to yours and agrees with your assessment, “It’s work.”
You both then stand their awkwardly and sip your $5 beers in the sticky midtown pub.
No? Just me? Well anyways, I’m sure you’ve complained once or twice to your friends and coworkers about your job. Don’t worry, you’re not going to die because your boss wears too much perfume, or because you office is in Dumbo and you thought it was going to be a remote role, but now it’s “hybrid” and you wouldn’t have crammed into the Upper East Side if you had known that.
Most people do not like their job in this country – it’s a fact. According to a 2018 study, conducted by Morning Consult, just 33% of U.S. employees said they were “very satisfied” with their current job. I’ve had jobs I’ve hated, and I’ve had jobs I’ve hated slightly less. As a business owner I have by far the most stressful decisions to make than I did in any of prior roles. I have days where I love it, and I days where I want to throw my computer out the window. Upon reflection I realized my frustration at former jobs all came down to lack of control.
The jobs I had shortly after graduating Syracuse University with a degree in both Finance & Entrepreneurship, I sat in a cubicle and was monitored constantly for 8 hours per day. I was docked pay if I was late, and may have been scorned once or twice for taking too much time on a lunch break. However, the jobs were quite simple. Add up a few numbers in excel. Copy and paste a few paragraphs. File documents into another file. REAL GROUNBREAKING STUFF. But the job itself was not stressful. Nobody was going home hungry if I missed an email.
Today I am faced with many more difficult and stressful decisions than I was in the cubes. Like, whether or not it’s a good use of my time to keep writing this article. As a business owner, a consultant, and an employer, my decisions don’t just affect my paycheck and life, they affect my clients, my team, and if I had kids probably them too. But I am way happier than I was when I lacked control.
This isn’t a pitch to leave corporate America and start your own business. Just because you’re not a CEO or a manager doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have control over how you do your job. As long as your are completing the duties asked of you professionally, you should be treated like the adult you are. On the other hand, if you are a manager you might want to think about how much you tend to micromanage and the damage it can do to your business in the long run, because there has been statistical evidence that one’s degree of control in their job has a correlation with an increase in chances of getting a heart attack, or dying due to other early onset health conditions.
In his book Naked Statistics, Charles Wheelan cites a famous British study known as the Whitehall Studies that followed 17,530 civil servants over the course of 7.5 years. They were able to make a distinction of those with “low job control” by asking questions like “can you decide when to take a break?” or “Do you have a choice in deciding how to do your job?”. After years of research and subsequent studies, they were able to find a strong correlation between having a low degree of control in your job and dying from coronary heart disease.
While the Whitehall studies were conducted more than 50 years ago, the underlying message has been supported by subsequent studies. The bottom line is that while all types of job can be stressful in their own regard what really eats at peoples psyche is not feeling like they have any control or say in how they lived their life.
Therefore, I find it very important whether you are an entry level worker or a CEO, giving people as much flexibility as you can when it comes to getting the job done is how successful companies operate. What do you think?