By Paul A. Douglas, Ph.D. Founder & CEO, P.A. Douglas & Associates Inc.
It is all about power or more accurately the absence thereof.
Maybe it is because as school boys and girls we were taught Lord Acton’s dictum that “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” that many of us think that Power is a “dirty” word. We often view power in a pejorative way.
Yet it is really the lack of power, or at least our inability to use power in a non-manipulative way that is at the root cause of both individual failure and organizational immobility. I believe that it’s not power but rather powerlessness that we need to fear.
If we lack the power to control our environment, to influence others we die psychologically.
Myriad stories tell the tales of prisoners of war who, when put in isolation for long periods of time simply died for no apparent physical reason. Like- wise infants deprived of direct human touch often become victims of Marasmus – a condition characterized first by lethargy then by physical inactivity and finally by death.
Powerlessness and lack of control is often the greatest source of stress in our lives.
In a recent study by the United States Institute for Occupational Health and Safety, it was found that there is greater inherent stress in the role of administrative assistant than there is in the role of surgeon.
The Ten Most Stressful Jobs:
- Administrative Assistant
- Clinical Technician
- Office Manager
- Waiter or Waitress
- Machine Operator
- Farm Worker
Source: The United States Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
How could that possibly be true? Physicians make life and death decisions; our lives are literally in their hands. If they make a mistake, people die. If an administrative professional makes a mistake people don’t die, at least not right away, yet the empirical evidence shows the physician is less stressed.
Why? Because the surgeon has much greater control over his or her environment than does the administrative professional.
Excellence is the order of the day in medicine. Virtually anything that the surgeon needs to do his or her job is provided. Yes, the downside risk is greater for a surgeon than the AP but they have much greater control of their environment and that is vital when it comes to stress.
The administrative assistant or executive assistant is an intelligent individual and she or he is also a conscientious person. The administrative professional can see problems coming. They will often try to engage the boss to head off what he or she perceives as an impending threat and danger.
Yet the boss often fails to respond in a timely manner thereby avoiding a full-blown crisis and that is stressful for that diligent individual. Lack of control is why administrative professional are so damned stressed!
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