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Stress – It’s Not Fair

By Andy Warren,

Lately I’ve been working with a number of teams, all of them under pressure to deliver on their portion of a big project. As we get closer to the deadline the stress levels are increasing, I can see it in their faces and more importantly, how they react to even minor changes or disruptions – not as calmly as they did months ago.

I’ve been watching the causes and reactions, and while no interruption is welcome, the one that seems to cause the most reaction is when a team is impacted by the action, inaction, or lack of planning from another team.  I know that seems like it covers a lot of ground, but said differently, if they make a mistake or fall behind on their commitments it’s one kind of stress, when someone else makes them work harder it’s a different kind of stress.

The difference? The perception that “it’s not fair”.

It is a human response. We expect to take ownership of our work, to fix things if we break them, and to work harder if we’re falling behind on a goal we agreed to. We expect others to do the same. When they don’t, it hurts, it annoys, and it sets off the “not fair” stress alarm.

Learn to recognize that stressor. Learn to treat it the same way you would a drive failure - a problem to be worked, one that will cause you to reorganize your schedule. It’s still stress, it’s still work, but I think you might find it reduces the intensity of your reaction to it. 

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