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False victims who add to a manager’s work stress

Unscrupulous employees can exploit ‘victim status’ to claim unlimited rights that put unnecessary pressure on managers, setting up stress symptoms that affect executive health.

Whole decades of human-rights legislation have set up the strongest incentives for people in disagreement with their employers to establish victim status.

Once classified as a victim, you are in a sort of religious sanctuary, where everyone speaks in hushed whispers, and any scrutiny of your claims is viewed as uncaring and somehow indecent.

I once had to counsel the manager of a furniture workshop, who had been fooled in this way by a junior designer on his staff. This man would pretend that his wife was suffering from a dangerous condition needing expensive treatment that he could not afford without getting into spiralling debt. The company took pity on him and lent him the money interest-free, as well as giving him limitless time off. After a few months, he announced that she had died, and that he would need more time off, to grieve. In fact, he simply moved on to the next design-group and pulled the same trick.

Sure enough, this man had identified his special status as the office victim, and was playing it for all he was worth. He knew that the manager would be reluctant to investigate the situation with any thoroughness. To make it even easier, he knew he was working in an industry with a casual culture, where checks were not likely to be made with previous employers.

Eventually he was caught by chance when one of the firm’s suppliers, who was familiar with this man’s sob-story, went for an interview in another furniture workshop, where the boss told him about a junior designer with a tragic family situation…

When the whole story came out in one of the Sunday papers, my client’s credibility suffered (though most people were sympathetic to him), and the humiliation affected him badly.

I reminded him that you must exercise necessary vigilance on this point, demanding reasonable proof that the situation actually is what it seems. Then you are free to apply that particular mix of business and human judgment that marks out the effective manager.

Have you heard…?
…of someone exploiting victim status in an unscrupulous way?
Tell us what happened – or just what you think and feel about common workplace situations like this.

In our readers-comments box. Now.

Book Motivational Speaker and BBC Broadcaster Carole Spiers in person for a charismatic, high-impact presentation on proven stress management and organisational change strategies. Tel: +44 (0) 20 8954 1593 or email info@carolespiersgroup.co.uk.

Or check-out our latest professional stress reduction products http://bit.ly/FjL5L and stress management services delivered to blue-chip clients from Bank of England to Abu Dhabi Marine Operating Company in UK, UAE and worldwide at http://www.carolespiersgroup.co.uk


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Back-to-school Blues?

Back-to-school Blues? You’re simply having to handle a change-of-life in your child – and in yourself. Read more > http://ping.fm/Q1fpB

Motivational Speaker Carole Spiers says … How first-time freelancers risk the stress of overwork

Going freelance is meant to relieve the stress of full-time work. But without proper time management, the temptation to overwork in exchange for instant earnings can ratchet-up the pressure, which then hardens into serious stress.

The excitement of setting up your own business for the first time can lead to serious levels of overwork. It is clearly very difficult to resist the temptation of burning midnight oil for guaranteed extra income.

I used to give regular seminars for a big chain of jewellers, and made friends with one of the craftsmen who engraved names on sporting trophies. Eventually he was able to set up his own business, where he was immediately offered as much work as he could handle. At forty, he was his own master for the first time, and he told me of the sheer exhilaration of being able to increase his income just by working longer in the evenings.

He became mesmerised by this, proudly forecasting how soon he would be able to afford his first luxury car, his first fitted bathroom and so on  –  provided he just stayed at that bench for those longer and longer sessions.

It didn’t turn out like that. Too many late nights started to affect the quality of the workmanship, and business began to drift off.

This gave him a double problem, in addition to a possible midlife crisis. First, the suggestion that he might have lost his touch (very serious in a craftsman). And second, that he might have turned out to be the wrong kind of character to run his own business  –  also a bad blow to self-esteem.

As I knew him quite well, I was able to persuade him to accept some counselling on these issues. I told him bluntly that he had got tunnel vision about all that overtime, and failed to get it in proportion. This meant he was probably not suited to self-employment.

However, I thought it was unlikely that he had lost his touch on a permanent basis. I suggested he should start again as a full-time employee at another jewellers, working nine-to-five. And there I was glad to see he regained his freshness and flair.

Meanwhile he had learned that working twice the hours does not deliver twice the output (or earn you twice the money).

Have you heard…? 
…of someone tempted into overwork by the prospect of higher earnings.
Tell us what happened  –  or just what you think and feel about common workplace situations like this.

In our readers-comments box. Now.

Book Motivational Speaker and BBC Broadcaster Carole Spiers in person for a charismatic, high-impact presentation on proven stress management and organisational change strategies.

Tel:  +44 (0) 20 8954 1593 or email:  info@carolespiersgroup.co.uk.

Or check-out our latest professional stress reduction products http://bit.ly/FjL5L and stress management services delivered to blue-chip clients from Bank of England to Abu Dhabi Marine Operating Company in UK, UAE and worldwide at:  www.carolespiersgroup.co.uk

That job interview is just a sales pitch. So whittle down your main selling proposition into one short phrase. http://bit.ly/YWFAz

Motivational Speaker Carole Spiers says … Relieve the stress of a merger with credible claims

Reduce the inevitable stress of a corporate merger by avoiding unbelievable claims about ‘Business as Usual’.

I knew one young HR Manager who effectively invented ‘Uncertainty Management’ as a new branch of stress management.

They had risked appointing Philippa as HR Manager of one of the UK’s biggest tour operators, although she was only twenty-four. But then, within weeks, the worrying rumours started; apparently they were due to merge with an even bigger organisation.

This was going to be a real test of HR, especially Change Management. The inevitable redundancies. The shuffling of whole departments, with new faces, new job-functions and titles. And of course, the huge customer-base, wanting confirmation that their holiday-bookings were still valid.

When the first few people came knocking on her door, her instinct was to talk reassuringly in terms of ‘Business as Usual’. But she soon realized that this was the lazy way out, basically a bluff that would soon destroy the vital credibility that she had yet to build up at her young age.

In her previous job, she had attended one of my newer presentations ‘Change is your Opportunity for Growth’  whose sub-text was ‘Build a believable vision of a corporate future’. At this crucial moment, she remembered some of the key messages about credibility.

So instead, she shifted the emphasis to ‘delivery as usual’, on the basis of manageable short-term projects. This was accepted as much more realistic, and the atmosphere of disorientation and distrust quickly began to ease.

A high degree of candour and confidence was encouraged, with no empty promises about job security, but investments still made in recruitment, coaching and staff development in general, so that people were kept busy and excited about their role in the business. Standards of executive dialogue improved dramatically. In particular, the HR department itself became recognised as an industry leader and role-model when the merger finally went through.

Without realizing it, Philippa had effectively invented a new HR capability ‘Uncertainty Management’.

Have you heard of someone having to convince the sceptical about corporate trustworthiness? Tell us what happened  –  or just what you think and feel about common workplace situations like this.

In our readers-comments box.  Now!

Book Motivational Speaker and BBC Broadcaster Carole Spiers for a charismatic, high-impact presentation on proven stress management and organisational change strategies.

Tel: +44 (0)20 8954 1593  or email:  info@carolespiersgroup.co.uk.

Or check-out our latest professional stress reduction products at:  http://bit.ly/FjL5L  and stress management services delivered to blue-chip clients from Bank of England to Abu Dhabi Marine Operating Company in UK, UAE and worldwide at:  www.carolespiersgroup.co.uk