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Ask The Experts

Work stress questions from readers answered Add to ...

Host Greg Habstritt and featured speaker Michael E. Gerber from Engage Today 2010, taking place in Calgary from June 4 to 6, answered some of your questions about how to become an 'engaged' entrepreneur rather than an 'exhausted' one.

Question from ‘Hug:’ In the recent past, I was required to supervise a particularly passive-aggressive individual, but I was not allowed to provide any kind of evaluation of her workplace habits. Among many other things, she would quit speaking to me (technically her boss) for weeks on end. When finally queried her about this, she said she did it because she felt like it. I was never able to find a healthy strategy to deal with this person, and goodness knows, I tried. Any comments?

Michael E. Gerber, founder of E-Myth Worldwide and the founder and chairman of Michael E. Gerber Cos.: There is no healthy strategy available to deal with unhealthy people. You were obviously working for her, rather than the opposite. The strategy that needed to be put into place was a healthy set of standards for accountability and responsibility for all employees in your company, managers and their personnel as well. Had you had such standards, what I call the rules of The Game, and engaged her in the conversation about them, while assuring yourself that she comes into alignment with them, with a notice that she has not been in alignment, your next step is clear. Either she does, and stays, or she doesn’t, and leaves.

Greg Habstritt, founder of SimpleWealth and the Engaged Entrepreneur Program: One of the most damaging roles that anyone can take on is that of the ‘victim,’ and I have to say that I’m hearing whispers of this in what you’ve said. How can you not be allowed to provide any kind of evaluation to someone in the company, when it is a threat to the satisfaction and functionality of the organization? Even worse, you suggest that you are ‘technically’ her boss, which implies no boundaries or clear understanding of roles. You’re apparently her superior, yet you’re not able to provide any kind of feedback?

Something doesn’t add up here. Not only is the structure in the company dysfunctional with a lack of clear reporting or supervisory roles, but you’re playing into it by allowing it to continue. You need to step into the problem and deal with it. If that means your feedback is unwelcome by those above you, that’s a pretty clear sign you’re in the wrong organization to begin with, and you need to make a change. Life’s too short to play these kinds of games in the workplace.

Question from ‘Earl The Pearl 2:’ About four months ago I had to leave a business opportunity I enjoyed and was committed to because of stress (12 years without a vacation). The stress was so severe that two of three nights were sleepless. My life has subsequently moved into better balance and I have recently re-entered the work force with a new opportunity. I find that stress has again started to affect my sleep cycle. Are there any tips you might offer so that I am better able to take on new challenges?

Michael E Gerber: The stress is obviously yours, not your environment. So, how do you do this differently? You start all over again, but with a clear picture of what you will do and what you won’t, of what you will create and what you won’t. Clarity is key. It is obviously the piece missing in this picture.

Greg Habstritt: Here’s a critical distinction you need to make in order to fix things: Is the stress you’re feeling being created by external forces, or is it being manufactured internally? In other words, are you creating all the stress in your mind, or are there truly factors around you that are creating the stress? Given this appears to be a pattern from what you’ve said, my guess is that you are creating the stress internally, and it doesn’t really matter what environment you are in. Twelve years without a holiday – that’s a stress you’re creating yourself. It sounds like your stress problem is creating problems in your life, and actually affecting your ability to function properly.

To me, this is beyond a simple stress issue, and likely a deeper issue you have going on in your mind. You need to truly identify the source of your stress, and then consciously work toward removing it – and you may need some external help to do this. Whether it be a life coach or counsellor, it sounds like you’ve gone a long time this way, and you may benefit from having someone help you identify why you are creating this kind of anxiety for yourself.

Question from ‘The Backseat Driver:’ Work and life balance is a myth. How can there be balance when you only have two days off per week?

Michael E. Gerber: There can be balance every moment of every day no matter how many days you choose to work. Simply define “balance,” design your life accordingly, and then live it as often as you are able. Am I balanced, or am I not? You will know the answer to that question.

Greg Habstritt: I believe that the concept of life ‘balance’ is a bit of a misnomer, because it’s impossible to be in perfect ‘balance’ in all areas of your life at the same time. Sometimes you need to focus more energy in one area – maybe a health problem develops, or a relationship needs more attention, or perhaps you’re in a period where focusing on your finances is important. You can’t be giving 100 per cent in every area, all the time – I think this is a false idea that leads to feeling disappointment and frustration.

Instead, I prefer to think of it as ‘harmony’ – in other words, all the important areas of your life are in harmony. They’re not necessarily all at equal levels (and no one said they had to be), but where you are in each area is in harmony with your priorities and goals. Can you create harmony in your life working five days and having two days off per week? Absolutely – but to do so, it’s important that you actually like what it is you do! When ‘work’ doesn’t feel like a grind and you get enjoyment and fulfilment from what you do, you create harmony – and that’s a lot more meaningful than trying to ‘balance’ everything.


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