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Is Your Job Stressful Or Is It Just You?

April 20, 2015

The question caught me off guard.

Is your job stressful?

Let’s see, my 60-70 hour per week job, where I’m held accountable for downtime but have no control over downtime? That job? The one where I have a demanding client and insane project schedules? That one? The one where downtime has built-in financial penalties that kick in if we drop below 99.95% available?

Was my job stressful?

Other people thought my job was stressful. My boss worried about me. He stressed over my long hours. My VP worried about me. He stressed over how well I felt I fit at the company. My coworkers worried about me. They stressed that their jobs might become like my job.

Some jobs are more stressful than others, of course. I work with guys who did tours in Iraq. One of them used to kick down doors at the point of a gun. That was stressful. Another watched a Humvee roll over on one of the men in his command. That was stressful.

My job requires a lot of travel. Travel can be stressful. But, I’m headed to a hotel room in Richmond, VA., not a battlefield in the middle of a sandbox. I’ll be able to go out to eat at a nice restaurant, or order room service, rather than eat MREs. No one will be shooting at me. 

Other people have stressful jobs. I have a friend who is a physician’s assistant. He deals with matters of life and death. That’s stressful. 

As I write this, I’m headed East at 35,000 feet. The pilot has the lives of a couple hundred people in his hands. He is responsible for piloting a contraction that weighs several tons and then setting it down gently while travelling a few hundred miles per hour. That’s stressful.

Can my job be stressful? I can get called at any time of the night or day, seven days a week. That can be stressful. My company makes money when we answer the phones. No phone calls? No money. In fact, it’s worse than that since if we are not taking phone calls, we not only don’t get money, we pay penalities. There is a a lot of pressure to keep the phones going. If our system is not available 99.95% of the time, we pay penalities. Just to give you an idea of what that time looks like. 

There are 86,400 seconds in a 24 hour day. What’s 99.95%? 86,356 seconds. In other words, if we are unavailable for more than 4 seconds in a 24 hour day, we are into the penalty. Guess who’s job it is to make sure that we don’t use more than those four seconds? 

I have over a thousand agents across three time zones. If any one of them cannot get logged into our software, I get a call. If we have a major outage, I’m not just getting one call, I’m getting several. I have a work phone in my home office. During a major outage, I’m on a conference call with my team; asking questions, giving direction, answering questions. I also have a cell phone, of course. During the outage, I’m on my cell phone calling into our client’s bridge; asking questions, getting direction, answering questions. I also occasionally need to reach out to our call floors. I have Skype. At one point I was one four calls at once dealing with two simultaneous outages. 

Rodney, we can’t work in the Raleigh outage right now. We have to finish up the Salt Lake City issue.

Okay. Why do we need to do them one at a time?

My team can’t focus on mroe than a single issue at a time.

Right. The client team didn’t want to be pulled in to many directions at the same time. I understand how that goes. That can be kind of stressful.

No.

No, my job is not stressful. Not in the traditional sense that it makes me stressed. I don’t let it. 

I understand that there are certain things I can control and a whole lot of things I can’t control. I try to only stress about the things I can control. When I was headed to Washington a couple of weeks ago, (I Made My Mother Cry. . .and I’d Do It Again) I was stressed about arriving on time. I had control over that. I had control over when I left, what route I took, how long I stopped and how fast I drove. (Okay, maybe the highway patrol had some say on that last one.) But, I had control. Knowing that my car was a few hundred miles from breaking down, would have stressed me even more. (Is There Ever A Good Time For A Breakdown. . .YES

Last week my flight from Louisville back home to Utah was delayed several hours. Instead of getting home at 10:00 pm, I was getting home at 1:00 am. It was inconvenient but not necessarily stressful. I had no control over it. It was going to take the same amount of time if I was stressed or not, so why worry about it?

The key in the workplace, of course is to identify the items you do have control over and those you do not. We’ll talk about that tomorrow. 

How about you? Is your job stressful? 

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and one grandchild. 
Follow him on Twitter (@rodneymbliss
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss) or email him at rbliss at msn dot com 

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