Tuesday, December 18, 2012

What I Read Today - Tuesday December 18, 2012

From:  The Wall Street Journal  Tuesday December 18, 2012


As the new year approaches – and with it the inevitable wave of self-improvement plans–we’ve identified 10 strategies for advancing your career in 2013. From recovering from an office blunder to learning why it doesn’t pay to be Mr. (or Ms.) Nice Guy, this ten-point plan will offer daily tips on what to do and how to do it.

Dr. David Posen, an author and general practitioner in Oakville, Ontario, started noticing a pattern almost 20 years ago: Patients were coming into his office with symptoms like high blood pressure, heart problems, panic attacks and depression. When he pressed for a sense of what was happening in their lives, the patients shared tales of burnout, overwork and abusive managers. These stories “made me want to call their employers and say, ‘Stop doing this! You’re killing your employees!’” he said.

Instead of calling all those bosses, Dr. Posen wrote the forthcoming book, “Is Work Killing You? A Doctor’s Prescription for Treating Workplace Stress.” In it, he offers suggestions for what workers, managers and companies can do to lower stress levels all around. He condensed some of his suggestions during a talk with At Work.

WSJ: What are the main causes of workplace stress?

Posen: The big three are volume, velocity and abuse. In terms of volume, people are working longer hours, which then affects their health, their sleep patterns, and their personal lives. By velocity, I mean the pace of the workplace has gotten faster because of technology, increased expectations, overlapping deadlines, unrealistic deadlines.

Abuse is bullying, harassment, and all the politics people play. It’s amazing how one abusive person can create stress for dozens of people. It’s become a bigger problem because people have less freedom to say ‘I don’t want this job’ and go somewhere else. So people aren’t quitting and they’re not even complaining because they don’t want to seem like troublemakers.

WSJ: What would you say to a mid-level corporate employee who’s suffering from stress-related illnesses?

Posen:Identify where the stress is coming from. Is it about deadlines? A difficult boss? The fact that you don’t have resources you need? A fear that you don’t have the skill set to do what you’re being asked to do? Zero in on what aspect of work is the problem and then deal with that. Take breaks – whether that means 5 or 10 minutes, lunch, a mental health day here and there, or going on vacation. In 2010, Americans left 424 million paid vacation days on the table.

WSJ: What are some simple ways people can reduce stress without making huge changes in their work situations?

Posen: I recommend people take regular time-outs, even just 15 minutes walking in the sunshine on your lunch break. Time-outs are built into sports, and they should be a part of a regular workday too. We all need opportunities to relax and catch our breath. Another pretty easy fix: drink less caffeine. Energy drinks, coffee – these stimulate a stress reaction and block the natural relaxants in the brain. I call coffee “stress in a cup.”

WSJ: Many people can’t afford to leave their jobs. What are their options?

Posen: Some of my patients go on disability, or they take a medical leave of absence. You do need a doctor’s diagnosis – diagnoses might list depression, burnout, hypertension – but when done properly, that shouldn’t be shared with the employer, only the insurance company. Depression is by far the most common stress-related diagnosis.

WSJ: Does one have to give up their professional ambition in order to restore a sense of well-being to their work lives?

Posen: For the vast majority of people, when you take better care of yourself, you function better and perform better. One of my mottos is, it’s better to work 40-50 productive hours a week than 50-60 semi-productive hours. After 60 hours, you’re getting diminishing returns for your efforts.

WSJ: If a manager had to come up with a New Year’s resolution around helping employees deal with stress, what should it be?

Posen: As a manager, you need to know who’s wilting under the pace or workload. Start talking to people and ask them simple questions like, ‘How are you managing here? Is it too much work? Is the pace too fast?’ Ask people what they need, what resources would be helpful. And be a good role model. If the manager is working long hours, people feel they have to work long hours. If the manager is sending emails on Sunday, they feel they have to respond on Sunday. Give people permission to slow down. When the boss says to someone at 4:30, ‘You look pretty fried. Why don’t you just knock off, go home early, and I’ll see you tomorrow?’ It’s like handing an employee the biggest gift.

Monday, December 17, 2012

What I Read Today - Monday December 17, 2012

From:  CNN webpage on Monday December 17, 2012

Note:  We visted Mystic CT (mentioned in this article) for a couple of days back in September.

CNN) -- George Hochsprung's world began to crumble Friday when one of the students at the Connecticut middle school where he works walked up to him.

Something was happening at the elementary school less than 10 miles away where Hochsprung's wife was principal, the student said, holding a computer. There were reports his wife had been killed.

Hochsprung rushed out of the building, one of dozens of family members of students and staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, desperately seeking information about their loved ones that day.

His wife, Dawn, was in a meeting that morning when a 20-year-old local man blasted his way into the elementary school armed with three guns. She stepped out of the meeting to find out what was going on and never returned.

She was among the 26 people shot and killed inside the school by the gunman, Adam Lanza, who then turned a weapon on himself. Twenty of the dead were children.

Vigil held for shooting victimsTeacher: Sandy Hook is a tight-knit groupSunday school teacher faces heartbreakThe lives cut short in school shootingAs people across the world struggle to comprehend Lanza's atrocious acts, George Hochsprung has been left with a future that no longer makes sense.

He is more than 20 years older than his wife, who was 47 when she died. He never imagined he would outlive her.

"Dawn and I built this beautiful house in the Adirondacks, our dream," he said in an interview Sunday night, sitting on a couch surrounded by his three daughters and one of his stepdaughters.

"It was going to be Dawn's house because I was going to die," he said, explaining that they had included extra rooms in the house, so that their children and grandchildren could come keep his wife company after he was gone.

"And now it's me," he said. "I don't think I can do that."

He is now leaning on the support of their children and 11 grandchildren, but even that seems incongruous to him.

"My job has always been to take care of other people," he said.

Slain principal remembered as energetic, positive, passionate

Fittingly for two people who had made their careers in education, the couple met at a school, Rogers Park Middle School in Danbury, Connecticut. It's the same school where he was working Friday.

He was a good deal older when they met, but she was his superior in the school hierarchy: She was an assistant principal, and he was a seventh-grade math teacher.

"I just fell in love with her," he said. But it took a little while for him to persuade her to marry him: "She turned me down five times."

Once he won her over, their wedding was influenced by their mutual love of sailing, taking place on a boat at sea near the Connecticut port of Mystic a decade ago.

They had both been married previously, and their union brought together three daughters on his side and two on hers.

One of her two daughters, Erica, described a devoted mother.

"Every practice, she was there," she said. "All of my sister's cheerleadering stuff, she was there. Every dance competition. She was doing homework on the bleachers, but she was there. And she was my rock."

Dawn Hochsprung's commitment to her family was closely matched by her dedication to her students, according to friends and family members.

"She was really nice and very fun, but she was also very much a tough lady in the right sort of sense," according to Tom Prunty, a friend, whose niece goes to Sandy Hook and was uninjured Friday. "She was the kind of person you'd want to be educating your kids. And the kids loved her."

Her decision to step out into danger when the shooting began has left her husband with some difficult emotions.

"Dawn put herself in jeopardy, and I have been angry about that," he said.

But that changed Sunday, he said, when he met two teachers who told him that his wife had instructed them to take shelter while she confronted Lanza.

"She could've avoided that," George Hochsprung said. "But she didn't; I knew she wouldn't. So, I'm not angry anymore."

His voice wavering, he continued: "I'm not angry. I'm just very sad."