Being Overworked Doesn’t Mean You’re The Best

Taken from here.


Stress is nothing more than a socially acceptable form of mental illness. ~Richard Carlson


Americans are known for their competitiveness. We compete over sports (even if we aren’t actually playing on the team), money, intelligence, schools, subway seats and shoe height. And it seems we also compete over who is the most stressed out from working hard. It’s almost as if you win some sort of life success battle by talking constantly about how your job is literally killing you. It also gives you an excuse to not brush your hair.

More than a third of workers regularly experience on-the-job stress, and about half say inadequate pay significantly contributes to those feelings, according to the poll, commissioned by the American Psychological Association. A 2011 Work Stress Survey conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of Everest College, finds that a whopping 77% of Americans are stressed at work, with low pay the most common reason cited (14%). The other reasons? Commuting, an unreasonable workload, annoying coworkers, a bad boss and poor work-life balance. This follows on the heels of news from the American Psychological Association that 36% of workers report experiencing chronic work stress and almost half say low salary has a significant impact on their workplace stress. But could these employees secretly use these reasons as bragging rights to show their friends how successful they are? Why would you show off about a pair of shoes when you could say your boss made you stay late every night this week? We talked to a number of people about this.

It seems that being busy at work is proof that you are important. Debra Safyre said when she worked in Corporate America her company competed on the “busy” scale. “Your “busy”- ness was a measure of how valuable you were to the organization. If you were able to manage your “busy”ness you were considered a leader.


Sara Martin, an architect, told The Grindstone:

People one-upping each other’s stressful work habits is an epidemic. Time spent is the easiest metric we have to measure our commitment to our jobs. Other metrics such as insight, creativity, and productivity are nebulous and subjective. Time is quantifyable: did you spend 5 hours more than Mary? Or 20? Time comparisons give the illusion we’re comparing apples to apples with respect to effort.


Debby Carreau, President of Inspired HR told The Grindstone:

Often people can get caught up in the culture of comparing their workload, effort or stress in order to justify their role in the organization or prove their worth to their peers. People can get confused and mistake stress and busy work for effectiveness. Unfortunately this behaviour can have the reverse effect and make the person seem unable to handle their role, disorganized or unable to handle pressure well.

Shari McGuire, Time Management, Productivity and Profitability Expert, said people literally wear their stress as a badge of honor. “I believe that competition is our ego getting in our way – “see how important I am, I have to check email and take meetings while I am on vacation.”” Chris Clark reminds us this kind of competitiveness goes all the way back to college or even high school when many of us bragged we were too busy with all of our other work to study for a test and yest those were the people that aced it which means they obviously did have time to study, at least a little.


Laura George told The Grindstone:

“I think it is human nature for us to compete about practically everything. It’s also in our nature to want to give our opinions (I’m being a prime example here since I have no educational background in psychology save for a 101 course in college) and to want to respond with our own experiences. With the competitiveness in mind, when we respond with our experience and opinion, we often get caught up in making it better than everyone else’s too. So when a friend expresses her stressful work life over drinks, I want to jump in and tell her about all of my stress. Look at me, pay attention to me. I can be an interesting conversationalist because I can take what you’ve offered and one-up it. It’s certainly an interesting instinct to have……”


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