Skip to main content

The Hidden Stresses of Senior Leadership

She gestured toward an empty spot on her desk with the open palm of her hand. 
"I'm gonna put a big glass bowl of Valium here," she said. 
At that, I burst out laughing.
"Oh, it's no joke," she said, her voice lowering to a near-whisper. "I really need it."
We'd met at the gym and I didn't work with her. So she started to unload: "They" (it wasn't clear to me whether this was employees, colleagues, bosses or some combination of the three) were constantly bringing her their problems. Family stuff. Work fights. Projects that made no sense. Bothersome people. Everything.
"Shut the door," she said, putting her head down into a kind of nest made of her own elbows. "I need a break."
When she picked up her head, I learned about a meeting she'd attended that morning - the latest round of fighting over some issue or another.
Apparently someone had singled her out, blaming a decision she'd made five years ago for all the problems "it had caused us downstream."
She clenched her fist, hard, pressing it against the mahogany desktop.
"What an ignorant ass!" she said loudly. "Do you know, I don't even know him?"
I shook my head at the story, thinking, I hate office politics so much.
"Thank goodness I've learned to save every email in an Outlook folder," she said. Her voice had turned cold and steely. "Believe me I left that meeting and sent the proof of my innocence to everyone. Believe me I copied everybody!"
She glanced at her charcoal-rimmed computer monitor.
"I am praying we never have to switch to Google."
It felt like I'd been in there for a bit too long, and heard a bit too much, so I tried to lighten things up a bit so that I could make my way the hell out of there.
"Hopefully you had a good weekend," I said. "Mondays are always hard."
With that, I stood up and went for the door handle. Almost out, I thought to myself. A bit of fresh air would be good.
But she had one last thing to tell me.
"By the way, X just had a heart attack," she said. "They took him out on a stretcher."
"You're kidding," I said, surprised. This executive was literally the life of the Christmas party. 
"He has a pretty stressful job," she mused. "I wonder if he'll be coming back."
Too quickly, I replied, "He didn't really seem like the heart attack type."
My gym friend went quiet. Now I could see a tissue in her still-tightly-clenched fist, a messy wrinkle amid her beautifully manicured red nails.
"What's the heart attack type?" she asked. And with that I saw her looking around her beautifully appointed office, at all the awards on the walls. 
Suddenly it felt like I was standing with her in a cage.
Her eyes fell upon the empty spot on her desk. The spot where she had fantasized putting Valium.
"I guess I don't know," she finally said. "But I can't stop thinking about that stretcher."
Her gaze fixed on my worried eyes.
"I just hope it isn't coming for me."
_____________
Copyright 2016 by Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D. All opinions are the author's own and do not necessarily represent the views of her employer or any other organization or entity, including the United States as a whole. Photo credit: Jim Sher / Flickr (Creative Commons)

Popular posts from this blog

What is the difference between "brand positioning," "brand mantra," and "brand tagline?"

Brand positioning statement: This is a 1–2 sentence description of what makes the brand different from its competitors (or different in its space), and compelling. Typically the positioning combines elements of the conceptual (e.g., “innovative design,” something that would be in your imagination) with the literal and physical (e.g., “the outside of the car is made of the thinnest, strongest metal on earth”). The audience for this statement is internal. It’s intended to get everybody on the same page before going out with any communication products.Brand mantra: This is a very short phrase that is used predominantly by people inside the organization, but also by those outside it, in order to understand the “essence” or the “soul” of the brand and to sell it to employees. An example would be Google’s “Don’t be evil.” You wouldn’t really see it in an ad, but you might see it mentioned or discussed in an article about the company intended to represent it to investors, influencers, etc.Br…

Nitro Cold Brew and the Oncoming Crash of Starbucks

A long time ago (January 7, 2008), the Wall Street Journal ran an article about McDonald's competing against Starbucks.
At the time the issue was that the former planned to pit its own deluxe coffees head to head with the latter.
At the time I wrote that while Starbucks could be confident in its brand-loyal consumers, the company, my personal favorite brand of all time,  "...needs to see this as a major warning signal. As I have said before, it is time to reinvent the brand — now.  "Starbucks should consider killing its own brand and resurrecting it as something even better — the ultimate, uncopyable 'third space' that is suited for the way we live now.  "There is no growth left for Starbucks as it stands anymore — it has saturated the market. It is time to do something daring, different, and better — astounding and delighting the millions (billions?) of dedicated Starbucks fans out there who are rooting for the brand to survive and succeed." Today as …

Should I Add My Beer-Focused Instagram Account To My LinkedIn profile?

This is my response to a question originally posed on Quora.

The answer, like lawyers tend to say, is: “It depends.”

Not knowing what you do for a living, let’s assume that your LinkedIn profile is typical, meaning that it reflects the image of a corporate professional.

Would your boss, or a prospective employer, think badly of you for promoting your passion for beer?

Traditional product branding says that you should focus on your unique selling proposition fairly single-mindedly. Your goal is to create a space in the customer’s mind dedicated to your brand so that when they want to purchase something like it, they shortcut all alternatives and go straight to you.

So from a product branding point of view, putting a personal beer account on your professional profile is distracting. It tells an employer that you’re not totally focused on the encyclopedic and ever-evolving knowledge, skills and abilities required to do your valuable type of job.

However, people are not products, and appl…