A well-timed suggestion from his younger brother helped Goolsby Distinguished Professor James Campbell Quick discover the subject that would become the focus of his career.
"My brother, Jonathan, was studying public health notions of prevention and thought it should incorporate the organizational stress I was studying," Dr. Quick recalls. "He predicted that we could become rich and famous with the combination."
Quick jokes that the "rich part" didn't happen, but the brothers have become two of the most commonly cited names in the stress arena-fame within a niche. In fact, his extensive writings over the past three decades have become essential background that shows up in textbooks and as references in scholarly articles.
"The thing I've seen the most in my 33 years of focus has been an explosion of awareness of how stress plays an important role in our sickness, disabilities, and even premature death," Quick says. "That's important, because stress can greatly affect our health and vitality."
Stress is a complicated subject, he explains, because a certain amount is essential for task accomplishment. Within reason, stress equates to creative tension. "The artistic question is this: What is the right amount of stress in the work environment if we want to challenge people enough to bring out the best in them?" Quick asks.
To help answer it, he developed a two-step process for organizations to help them deal with workplace stress: First, engage in surveillance to determine who's in emotional deep water, then engage in preventive intervention.
"Not all the problems in a highly stressful situation-say a corporate downsizing-are psychological," Quick notes. "There can also be financial problems or a combination of issues. Those need to be identified and worked through on an individual basis to show how important every individual in an organization is.
"The artistic question is this: What is the right amount of stress in the work environment if we want to challenge people enough to bring out the best in them?"