Platt’s Perspective: ‘Tis The Season To Be . . . Stressed

Mike Platt

Mike Platt

I’m a news junkie. I inhale news, politics and culture news the way a caffeine addict gulps coffee. No doubt you have people in your firm who do the same.

With all the seemingly disheartening news – divisive politics, terrorism, racial tensions, sexual harassment, nuclear threats, gun violence – I wonder what toll it is taking on all of us, and more important, how much of that toll is showing up in the workplace.

Could it manifest itself in reading false intentions into the actions of our colleagues, in minor distractions throughout the day, or in shortening our fuses when we react to perceived threats? It may manifest itself more subliminally, with feelings of stress and disenfranchisement bubbling just below the surface.

In a newly released study, “Stress in America,” the American Psychological Association reaffirms the findings of previous surveys – that Millennials continue to have the highest levels of reported stress, at an average of 5.7 on a 10-point scale. Boomers, by comparison, report an average stress level of 4.1, and Gen-Xers 5.3.
That same study points to a widening gender gap in the stress levels reported by men (4.4) and women (5.1), as well as a racial difference among Caucasians (4.7), Hispanics (5.2) and African Americans (5.0).

Clearly the news isn’t the only trigger causing stress – financial pressures, family issues and health concerns top the list of the big three that impact all of us. On top of all those issues – both those within our control and those outside our control – is the reality that Americans are among the most vacation-deprived groups in the world according to Expedia in a recent report. That report indicates that Millennials are the most vacation-deprived (62%) of any age demographic and are more likely to shorten their trips due to impending workload than their older colleagues.

So, what does this have to do with running a successful firm? Life doesn’t occur in a vacuum – all employees bring baggage with them, and workplaces are affected.

Firms need to consciously choose whether to address the well-being of their staff, partners and clients. Does the firm’s responsibility end at the office door or is it the firm’s role to help them manage the pressures they will inevitably encounter outside work? Are firm leaders aware of the ways these outside concerns are manifesting themselves? Do you know who is feeling disenfranchised, detached or stressed – and if so, the reasons for it? Do supervisors get training in detection of behavioral changes in those they manage, or is their CPE more focused on the latest FASB rules? And how do we measure commitment to overall well-being to benchmark progress from year to year?

As the holidays are upon us and tax season approaches, chances are stress levels are ratcheting up – whether you realize it or not. As you celebrate this season of thanksgiving, family and traditions, be sure to reaffirm your conscious decision – it is a choice – as to how much you are willing to address the issues your partners and staff are dealing with every day. And for those of you with news junkies on your team, encourage them to turn off all media, curl up with a good book, and just relax . . .