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Balancing the stress equation

Balancing the stress equation

For more than 30 years, Goolsby Distinguished Professor James Campbell Quick has helped organizations manage their employees' stress. One of the world's leading authorities on the subject, he has written extensively on stress and developed a landmark two-step model for businesses to deal with it.

Why is it so important that we understand stress?

Because stress plays an important role in sickness, disabilities, and even premature death. The way we react to stress is a major component of our health and vitality. Stress is a great gift for dealing with legitimate emergencies and achieving peak performance.

And the business world is particularly susceptible?

Yes, but it's a complicated issue because a certain amount of stress is essential for task accomplishment. Companies want to both challenge and support people, and that requires balancing the stress equation.

How does your Preventive Management Model address that?

I developed the model with my brother, Dr. Jonathan Quick, who's a physician and president of Management Sciences for Health. It's a two-step process: surveillance to determine who's in emotional deep water, then preventive intervention.

Why the initial surveillance?

People don't react to stress in the same way, and not all the problems in a highly stressful situation-say a corporate downsizing-are psychological. There can also be financial problems or a combination of problems. Those need to be identified and worked through on an individual basis.

Has today's recessionary environment complicated things?

It creates a real challenge because ultimately the leader of the organization is responsible for the whole organization-its well-being and survival. The realities of that necessity in a downsizing world often mean companies and corporations can't keep everybody they've got. That kind of dilemma creates real tension, but there are better and worse ways to terminate people. How a company handles it sends a huge message about how important every individual in an organization is.