Did you know that senior and executive managers suffer from mental problems and psyche dangers caused by productivity overload more often than any other professionals?
How are some able to handle pressure, while others cannot?
German Professor Dr. Andreas Zimber is a researcher in the field of mental health at the workplace, and heads the department of personal development at the Institute of Mental Health in Mannheim, Germany. Dr. Zimber investigates risk factors and protective mechanisms.
In October 2016, Manager Seminar Magazine interviewed Dr. Zimber (edition 223). Listed below are his main findings.
Risk Factors for Psyche Dangers:
High workload plus life challenges
Senior Managers usually face a high workload. Fifty, sixty hours per week or even more are quite common. The likelihood to become ill increases when additional requirements, e.g., private issues (such as divorce, illness of family members, parents in need of care, etc.) come on top of that workload.
By how much are Senior and Executive managers aware of the fact that they have crossed their limit? Have they learned to recognize early warning signs? When do they know they can’t continue working the way they do?
Personality plays a big part in this. Many senior managers are perfectionists and therefore tend to overrate their resources. They have managed everything to date and believe that this will continue; risk awareness is lost. But perfectionism can be a trap. The only acceptable judge is the individual himself who will always find something that is not yet perfect. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be a perfectionist. One cannot win this game.
Perfectionism is a path to unhappiness.
Another risk factor is a narcissistic tendency. To protect their self-worth, narcissists cannot admit suffering from overwork and pressure.
Many top managers are not masters of their time schedule and need to follow strict guidelines. Considerate superiors who suggest a timeout seem to be rare, as most don’t want to realize the threat. Even apparent symptoms are a distraction from business goals. Concerned managers tend to ignore physical signals.
The work environment plays an important role here. Most companies now accept mental pressure as a possible problem within middle management ranks but struggle to recognize it as a leadership topic. Top managers interviewed could not broach the limit of workload and pressure. If they think there is a lack of appreciation, the situation becomes critical.
Many senior and executive managers expect themselves to perform highly in their personal environment as well. They want to be great sportsmen, musicians, or influential board members of community organizations or political parties, just to name a few.
Countermeasures: Become Aware – Accept – Learn – Change
Here is what I recommend considering:
- Understand and become aware of the mentioned risks.
- Recognize your perception of work and life.
- Accept that even the “tough” top guys can suffer from work overload.
- Recognize the early warning signs.
- Learn how to de-stress, relax, and have recreational vacations.
- Change limiting behaviours.
- Live and eat healthily to survive in today’s (business) world.
- Hire a coach (get external help).
Physical and mental health is something we take for granted, but once gone, it is costly or sometimes impossible to regain. Maintenance makes a lot of sense; it’s not only for cars!