30 September 2008

How Stress Effects You

source: www.worksafesask.ca

Health Effects

Individuals respond differently to stress. Personality, general health and the support of friends and colleagues all affect this response. A group of people exposed to the same type of stressors may experience different health effects. Nonetheless, the body’s physical response to stress is generally the same for everyone. It is commonly known as the ‘generalised stress response.’

Excessive stress has been associated with heart disease, high blood pressure, digestive ailments, skin rashes, insomnia, nervous or emotional disorders, substance abuse and interpersonal and family dysfunction.

As long as stressful experiences are brief and infrequent, the body quickly returns to normal. In nature, this phenomenon is known as the ‘fight or flight reaction. But a person who is in a continuous state of stress throughout every working day may experience a wide variety of potential health effects.

28 September 2008

Stress v's Anxiety

source: www.nlm.nih.gov

I thought this an interesting picture demonstrating 'stress' & 'anxiety'.

How do you manage stress? what steps do you take to reduce stress effects on your body?
eg; exercise, relaxation, meditation, diet ..etc?

What happens when the stress turns into anxiety?
If stress becomes overwhelming people should seek professional help from their GP in first instance. They can help look at the options for help via counselling eg; psychologist.
It is a reflection on the strength and maturity of the person who has been affected and shows willingness to do something about it, to avoid being further victimisation by any negative impact on you to get help and find the way back to your healthy sense of self.

22 September 2008

Chronic Job Stress is a Risk Factor for Heart Disease

Important New Findings According to a study by the British Medical Journal, chronic stress has been linked to the development of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, as well as other conditions.

Here are the highlights of the study:

Researchers followed 10,308 British civil servants aged 35-55 over a 14-year period to sutdy the role of chronic job stress in the development of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
They examined the link between chronic
job stress and metabolic syndrome, which is a group of factors that, together, increase the risk of these diseases, including high blood pressure, insulin resistance, central obesity (excessive abdominal fat, which has been linked to increased cortisol in the bloodstream, as well as several other health problems), and a few other factors.
They found that greater levels of job stress did indeed increase people’s chances of developing metabolic syndrome. The higher the stress level, the greater the chance of developing metabolic syndrome.
Social factors played a role as well. Lucky subjects with higher status jobs were less likely to have the syndrome, and those with lower status jobs were at a higher risk.
They also examined and discovered a link between metabolic syndrome and exposure to other
health damaging behaviors like smoking, heavy drinking and lack of exercise, especially in men. Poor diet was also a risk factor, and tended to show up in the form of few fruits and vegetables. These factors, of course, lead to additional health problems as well as additional stress.
One possible explanation for this are that prolonged job stress may affect the nervous system. Another possible reason for this is the fact that chronic stress may affect the body’s hormonal balance and

Here’s What You Can Do:

It’s important to take steps to take care of oneself and one’s body. The good news is that there are several things you can do to stay healthy. Not only that, but you can reverse many of the negative effects of stress in a surprisingly short amount of time, with a few relatively minor lifestyle changes:

* Reduce Daily Stressors You can reduce stress in your life by making lifestyle changes like
becoming more organized, better managing time, and making other changes at work. Getting enough sleep and maintaining a positive outlook are also important in overall health. Here is a list of healthy habits that can improve your overall health.

* Learn Stress-Reducing Practices Learning and practicing a
stress management technique or two can also help your health by activating your body’s relaxation response (the mechanism in your body that counteracts the ‘fight or flight’ response to stress, returning hormone levels and other systems to normal). Here are my top ten stress relieving practices; one or two of these could become an important part of your life and a valuable tool to stay healthy.

* Maintain a Healthy Weight
Diet and exercise help tremendously. Another recent study found that metabolic syndrome can be reversed in as little as three weeks with healthy diet changes (65-70% complex carbohydrates, 15-20% protein, 12-15% fat and extra fruits, vegetables and whole grains) and moderate daily exercise (45-60 minutes of walking). Previous studies have found that losing even 10 lbs. makes a significant difference in lowering blood pressure, stabilizing blood sugar levels, and contributing to overall health and wellbeing, even when subjects were still obese.

source: stress.about.com
Stress and Metabolic Syndrome
By Elizabeth Scott, M.S.,

11 September 2008

LEGAL - Significant damages payout plus costs for sexual harassment claim

Key Points:

Anti-discrimination tribunals and courts are beginning to order more generous payouts

Anti-discrimination tribunals are increasingly prepared to order generous awards for damages.

In the recent decision of Tan v Xenos (No 3) (Anti-Discrimination) [2008] VCAT 584 the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) found that Dr Chris Xenos had sexually harassed Dr Caroline Tan in breach of anti-discrimination legislation. Dr Tan was awarded $100,000 in damages, considered significant in this jurisdiction.

In the associated ruling of Tan v Xenos (Anti-Discrimination) [2008] VCAT 1273, VCAT also ordered the Dr Xenos to pay some of the costs Dr Tan incurred in the lengthy proceedings.


As part of her training to be a neurosurgeon, Dr Tan was employed as a neurosurgical registrar at the Monash Medical Centre. From early August 2004, she moved into a surgical team led by Dr Xenos.

In December 2004, Dr Xenos started inviting Dr Tan to his private rooms. On 15 February 2005, Dr Tan accepted such an invitation. At this meeting, Dr Tan alleged that Dr Xenos sexually harassed her by embracing her, kissing her on the lips, putting his hand down her breast, pinning her against the table, exposing himself and asking her to perform a particular sexual act.

Dr Tan lodged a complaint with the Human Resources Department of the Medical Centre in early 2006. She also made a number of less formal complaints to some of her colleagues after the incident. Eventually, she lodged a complaint in VCAT. Dr Xenos denied the incident took place.


Under section 87 of the Equal Opportunity Act 1985 (Vic) a person must not sexually harass another person at a location that is a workplace for both of them. Sexual harassment includes making an unwelcome sexual advance or engaging in unwelcome conduct that is of a sexual nature.

Judge Harbison concluded that it was more probable than not that the alleged incident took place. The evidence, including that of Dr Tan making a number of complaints following the incident, was consistent with the complaint. It was not consistent with Dr Xenos' submission that the story had been fabricated because of Dr Tan's unsatisfactory performance as a neurosurgeon and her knowledge of likely failure in her training.

In the result, VCAT awarded substantial general damages in the amount of $100,000. The damages award reflected on a financial basis the hurt that Dr Xenos' act caused Dr Tan. VCAT also disavowed the notion that damages awards in the anti-discrimination jurisdiction should be lower than those awarded in comparable cases in other courts.

While there was no medical evidence as to how the incident had affected Dr Tan, Judge Harbison found that Dr Tan had "suffered acutely", was "terribly affected" by the harassment and had reacted, "unusually severe(ly)" to it "as a gross violation of her body and… trust". What is more, while Judge Harbison considered the incident was not the "worst one (could) imagine", Dr Xenos was in a powerful position in which he had "great influence" over Dr Tan's future career and qualification. she also found Dr Xenos had "deliberately and falsely denied the harassment" and sought to impugn Dr Tan's character. She noted that Dr Tan's capacity to enjoy her profession would be "significantly tarnished".

In addition to the significant damages award, Dr Xenos was ordered to pay one-third of Dr Tan's taxed costs.

VCAT can make costs orders when it is fair to do so, based on the consideration of a number of factors. In this case, costs were awarded because the hearing had been "unnecessarily lengthened". Many days had been spent on hearing evidence of Dr Tan's professional capabilities, introduced to support Dr Xenos' claim that the complaint was fabricated - a claim found to be unsubstantiated.


Damages awards in sexual harassment matters have by and large been fairly modest and contained. However, in recent times there has been an emerging trend of anti-discrimination tribunals and courts ordering more generous payouts.

In light of this decision in Tan and other like cases that are expanding the range of damages available in this jurisdiction, it is important that employers remain vigilant in preventing and addressing sexual harassment claims.

The policies and procedures of an employer need to, in a practical and real sense, be understood and adopted by staff from the top down. This means that those who are accountable within the organisation need to know how to identify when there is an issue (whatever the level of severity of the conduct) and understand what action should be taken in the circumstances. To that end, due diligence should be exercised regardless of the rank, seniority and standing of the person complained of. A failure to do so puts an organisation at significant potential risk.


10 September 2008

What is happening out there in the world today that is creating negative Work Environments?

Business more and more today is lead by Multi-national Global Corporations, often privatised so answer to the share holder, it is about the return on investment of the dollar, not the human being working to serve the corporation with blood, sweat and tears.
Unfortunately corporate competitive pressures, relentless drive for productivity & profitability is commonplace worldwide. This leads to the drive of management to stay afloat and at the top, by reduced costs, faster and smarter performance each year through a continuous scrutiny of process & people.
Yet employees, who ultimately turn business plans into profit reality, are themselves under more pressure than ever before. Social, domestic and economic responsibilities place growing and conflicting demands on limited time.
Physical ill health and damaged wellbeing are frequently the largely invisible result, with huge competitive and financial implications for the companies who employ these workers.Today real skilled dedicated long term employees loyal to commit to a 30year career are rare, as it is an employees market, leaving companies, big and small competing to lure in talent.
With such economic pressures there is potential disasters waiting to occur with increase stress in the workplace, people will today simply ‘get up and walk out the door’, therefore business need to understand the real commercial benefits of improving employee wellbeing, if this area is neglected it can, despite available knowledge and resources, HR teams (who often are in over their head, and only exist to promote ‘management hardlines’ not bring innovation), poor workplace culture can ruin a business and ruin reputation, as employees do tell people the truth of their experiences, this in itself is a therapeutic outlet from the stress they endure in the workplace.

Some interesting statistics from the US....

- 10% of the workforce report very low levels of satisfaction with both their job and the organisation.
- 20% of staff will report they have suffered some major life event in the past 3 months.
- 3% will report levels of mental ill health that are worse than those of psychiatric outpatients receiving clinical treatment for anxiety and depression.
- 3% of annual turnover may be lost, and this is just the direct costs.

How have you seen workloads increase, and do you think this has contributed to more stress in the workplace to create bullying and harassing behaviour, especially from your peers (sideways)? Do you think big business care? Do you think your HR team cares?

So what are some of the things you see happening in your workplace to make improvements?

Please drop me a line.

09 September 2008

Chimpanzees comfort victims of bullies with a consoling hug ...

Chimps like humans when being bullied ... is this comforting to know?

It’s the latest study to highlight just how similar chimps and other great apes are to humans.

A recent study looking at similarities in behaviour between Chimpanzees and humans has revealed just that.

A study was conducted over a period of 18 months with Chester Zoo Chimpanzees by Dr Orlaith Fraser, of Liverpool John Moores University. The Chimpanzees showed that they comfort the victims of bullies by hugging and giving a kiss on the viticm chimps cheek.

Dr Fraser stated that '.. the hugs, strokes and kisses helped lower stress levels'

The www.dailymail.co.uk reports that the researchers '..witnessed more than 250 fights – usually over mates, food or seating arrangements.'

“Usually within the first minute of the end of conflict, the consolation occurs,” Dr Fraser told the British Association Science Festival in Liverpool.

“You have a third party who approaches the victim and then wraps their arms around them, or might kiss them or come up to them and groom them.

”It seems this particular behaviour calms the victim down.”

Even groups of friendly chimps will squabble and bicker, just like families.

Even though most fights don’t end in injuries, the sight of an angry chimpanzee can be intimidating,

Their hand stands on end, they thump the ground, jump up and down and hoot and scream. Often they will punch or bite their rival, or chase them around the treetops.

In the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the scientists saw hugs and kisses after half the disputes.

Friends – chimps who often shared food or played together – were the most likely to offer support.

The researchers measured their stress levels by recording the amount of self-scratching and self-grooming, and comparing it to the normal levels of a happy chimp.

Consoling behaviour like this has been seen before in wild apes, - and in dogs and rooks.

But this is the first time scientists were able to show that the cuddles and hugs had a reassuring and calming effect on victims.

Dr Fraser believes the animals may be capable of empathy – the ability to put yourself in someone else’s place.

“We can't actually say what's going on in a chimpanzee's mind; we can only deduce from their behaviour what's going on," she said.

"Because this behaviour is actually reducing stress levels and it's being offered by a valuable partner, it seems likely that this is an expression of empathy."

Their behaviour mirrored seven year old children – who will put an arm around a friend’s shoulder if they have been bulled.

“This is something that is thought to be a unique trait to humans,” she said.

“So this is an important step towards understanding whether or not chimpanzees are capable of this level of empathy."

Although the study looked at chimps in captivity, similar behaviour has been seen in the wild, she added.
Chimps are human’s closest relatives in the wild. Like people they can use tools – using sticks to fish out termites, hunt in teams and plan ahead. They are also one of the few animals that can recognise themselves in a mirror – and realise that they are looking at a reflection.

08 September 2008

The Bully Rule Book

"You can actually calculate the total cost of assholes, or TCA." Robert Sutton, author of The No Asshole Rule

How to Deal with Bullies

Call them jerks, bullies, louts, boors, or--as Robert Sutton prefers--assholes. Whatever you call them, such characters are a part of every organization, and Sutton, a professor of management science and engineering at Stanford University, has written a book about how to deal with them, The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't. Sutton shared his thoughts on the topic with Inc. editor-at-large Leigh Buchanan. Prohibited by her editors from using the objectionable word, Buchanan turned to a thesaurus for help.

What got you interested in jerks?
My late father. He was an entrepreneur who started a half dozen companies. And his standard for a work relationship was if people were assholes, it wasn't worth it no matter how much money you could make. Because in the end it would drive you crazy. Then when I got to Stanford, my department had a no-asshole rule that we applied in hiring.

Is that the term they use at Stanford?
You do see the word more now because dirty talk is more socially acceptable in organizations. When I first got to Stanford, they were talking about it. It wasn't written down, of course.

How do you define the term?
There is a two-step definition that comes from the literature on abusive supervision. The first standard is whether someone consistently leaves people feeling demeaned and belittled and deenergized. The second standard is whether that person targets people who have less power than they do. But there's also an emotional component--the feeling that you're being oppressed or pushed around by a bad apple.

Does this refer only to bosses?
Can someone be an entry-level brute?

Sure. It starts at lower levels when people start oppressing their peers. At that stage, they tend to be less successful because they have less power, but they can still do damage. I've even worked with undergraduates who have left me feeling bad about myself.

It seems like schmucks can be particularly dangerous in small companies.
The thing about small businesses is there's no place to escape to. It's not like you can transfer to another division of a four-person start-up. You just have to leave. Especially when organizations are in start-up mode, people spend an unbelievable amount of time in one another's company. Assholes in that situation can have an enormous impact. Also, a company's size can create situations that can make people act like jerks. Someone wrote to me about a woman who was pregnant and worked in an office so small there was no bathroom. She had to use one in a neighboring shop. Her boss decided her visits were too frequent and started taking them out of her breaks and lunchtime.

Explain how jackasses can take a financial toll on companies.
You can actually calculate the total cost of assholes, or TCA. One Silicon Valley executive told me he had a rainmaker who was consistently abusive. No secretaries in the company would work for him, so they had to do external searches. He had to have training for sexual harassment and anger management. He was constantly complaining to management and to human resources about any little thing pertaining to his benefits. The HR people got so mad at him that they calculated the cost to the company of his being an asshole and it was $160,000 a year. The firm used that information in his compensation discussion and cut his bonus to send him a message.

How do you screen for antagonizers like this?
Mostly it's classic HR stuff. Don't believe the interview because it's so easy to fake it. Seek out people who know the candidate but weren't given as references. Try to work with people you've worked with before. It's also good to have people from multiple groups interview the candidate. That's because similar people tend to clump together, and if one group has assholes in it, they will want to work with other assholes. If there are assholes in your IT group, maybe another group will be able to keep new assholes from joining.

What if your customers are tormentors?
That's harder to deal with. Southwest Airlines (NYSE:LUV) sent letters to abusive customers and occasionally asked them not to fly on the airline in the future. Tom Kelly at the San Francisco design firm IDEO said in his company's early days, and when things were hard, they would take on someone they knew was going to be a jerk. And they were always sorry because they were miserable and would lose good people. So it was not worthwhile. Many independent consultants talk about "asshole taxes." That is, when clients are difficult they start raising their rates. One reason is practical: Assholes generally take more of your time. It also helps justify taking the job if you're getting 25 percent more for working with a jerk.

Can women be schmos?
My wife impressed upon me the importance of including as many women as possible, and there are many who fit the bill. Everybody I know who worked closely with Carly Fiorina will say she fits perfectly. My star female asshole is Linda Wachner of Warnaco (NASDAQ:WRNC). She had a history of routinely demeaning people, putting them down in public. When you didn't make the numbers, she would make you feel knee-high.

Are you ever a browbeater?
People have called me an asshole and I've deserved it. But doing the research has had an effect on my behavior. I think I'm an asshole less often now, and when I am I feel even worse. In person, I'm generally okay. In e-mail, I'm a bigger danger. I'm less inhibited when I'm writing because I can't see facial expressions so I just start going off.

If companies stop hiring rascals is there a danger that bands of unemployed harriers will roam the streets picking on small children and the elderly?
Based on what I've seen in law firms, corporate America, and Silicon Valley start-ups, there's no danger that companies are going to stop hiring assholes.

Story reproduced from Inc.com , By: Leigh Buchanan

02 September 2008

The Basics - What HR 'should' be doing

Workplace bullying is estimated to cost Australian business between $6 billion and $13 billion a year.

Workplace bullying can reduce profits due to a decrease in productivity or performance, absenteeism, increased staff turnover and legal costs.

Bullying can lead to employer liability in reinstatement claims, claims for compensation for sexual discrimination or harassment, claims for damages for personal and psychiatric injury, prosecution for breach of OH&S laws and criminal charges if the bullying constitutes assault.

To limit the potential for bullying in its workforce, an employer should adhere to the following:
  • Consult with employees and identify any risk of inappropriate behaviour;
  • Develop effective policies and procedures to deal with inappropriate workplace conduct;
  • Communicate such policies to all employees and conduct regular and training;
  • Take all complaints seriously and ensure appropriate investigation;
  • Ensure compliance with policies through regular reviews; and
  • Keep accurate records of steps taken in case of legal action.