I’m SO Stressed!

 The question is, which kind of stress are you experiencing (cuz there are two).  Society has always focused on the negative one:  “Distress”.   Distress is caused by perceived lack of control and pressure to perform. Accountability is CONSEQUENCE when this kind of stress is IMPOSED UPON someone, usually by someone is a position of “authority”, and typically when things aren’t going the way THEY need them to be.  
The other kind of stress, eustress, is, ironically the inverse. Eustress is created by possessing knowledge, self-awareness, and emotional intelligence.   As it relates to accountability, this kind of stress is OWNERSHIP by the person possessing it, and thus cannot be IMPOSED UPON anyone.

Trust and Respect

 As the two kinds of stress relate to trust and respect, distress breaks them down and eustress builds them up.  Distress in an organizational hierarchy influences decisions in a  way best summarized by two motivational themes at sales meetings:  “Whatever it takes” and “make hay while the sun is shining”.  There are certainly more, like “Git ‘er DONE!”, but you get the picture.  Simply put, distress encourages finding shortcuts to create results demanded by superiors (because they’re being demanded by those superiors’ superiors, and so on—-until you get to the top of the hierarchy.)
Eustress is the exact opposite.  This kind of stress is driven by self-actualization and emotional intelligence, first of the individual possessing it, and, AS IMPORTANTLY, of the person or people in the hierarchy the individual reports to.  
***Note:  Ego, arrogance, and conceit are not factors of eustress as these are not positive leadership traits.  

Automomy With Purpose

Eustress in an organizational hierarchy most often results in the creation and implementation of agile strategies that, in turn, accelerate growth in a POSITIVE manner.  “EU-stressed out people” aren’t stressed out at all, unless they’re not allowed to make a difference.  Such permissions must still be granted from the top of the leadership hierarchy, but those permissions are rooted in support, encouragement and respect versus consequence.  In Industrial Age lingo, this was called “autonomy with purpose”.  

A Distressed Culture

It’s essentially a death wish.  Here’s why:  If the only thing people high up the ladder care about are results that reflect positively on them, they will ALWAYS lead from a position of distress.  It’s a learned habit perpetuated in Industrial Age best practices manuals.  People working on assembly lines in factories were held to quality and production metrics that end customers really knew nothing about.  Customers weren’t truly allowed to have opinions about the systems that created the products and services they purchased.  That’s not true anymore.  Today’s consumers are informed.  They know what materials go into every product they use and what the costs are.  They are also, perhaps even more importantly, in tune to the impact each has on the environment and/or world economy.

  “Eu”-Stressed-Out?  The Tipping Point


When the most optimistic people in an organization start being relieved of their duties, the proverbial snowball at the top of the mountain has been formed.  It’s just waiting for one last nudge to send it down the slope.  The rate at which the snowball will accelerate is dependent upon the degree of loyalty eustressed-out employees have to their organization—-not to their leadership.  It’s quite  likely that those employees lost trust in their direct leadership months or even years ago.  So why have they made a conscious, self-aware choice to stay?  Two reasons:  

  1. Faith in the mission and purpose of the organization, regardless of leadership.  These people are ADVOCATES for the organization.    
  2. Belief in their own vision, as demonstrated by the inability of the organization’s DISTRESS culture to overtake their own EUSTRESS state. 

Strategy of the Edge

For some employees and reps, the tipping point has already been reached and they’ve moved on.  For others, the snowball has been nudged, but hasn’t gained enough speed yet.  In this case, the people in the middle will build momentum for the snowball. They’ve been doing a balancing act between the organization’s distress and their own eustress for years.  Unfortunately, either the failure of the organization to appreciate them or introductions to other organizations that will, they are either released or persuaded to leave when the pressure becomes unbearable (or potentially unhealthy.) The last group to go is unique because they may also be the only group to be INVITED TO STAY.  They’re the ones who live on the edge.  They not only enjoy the view, but also maintain a sharp focus on the horizon.  To them, the snowball of distress represents a conscious decision, this time by the company—-to strategically leverage attrition.  In Ryan Holiday’s terms from “Obstacle Is The Way”, they’ve chosen to use the organization against itself.

 What better way to jettison a distressed work force from an agile ship, openly disrupting itself, in order to thrust itself into the future?