Arthur Pammenter Ph.D.

CEOs Learn To Avoid Boardroom Burnout
San Diego Union-Tribune, 11/21/98

What Idle Rich?
San Diego Union-Tribune, 3/28/99

Killer Jobs - The Fast Lane Takes a Toll On Workers' Bodies, Minds

Los Angeles Business Journal, 10/12/98


CEOs Learn to Avoid Boardroom Burnout
The San Diego Union-Tribune, November 21, 1998

The stereotypical chief executive officer is a paragon of unflappable, steely resolve. He can make ruthless decisions to wing a competitor, dispatch 100 workers to the unemployment line and take a bad earnings report on the chin - sans emotional tremor.

But the idea of the unshakable, impervious corporate bigwig may be a boardroom myth. In the real world, many company presidents suffer debilitating mental blowouts executing their critical duties.

Enter Arthur Pammenter, a psychologist at Scripps' Center for Executive Health in San Diego, who is here to patch the fault lines by means of so-called "hardiness training". "The demands on CEOs have increased tremendously, with all the issues of downsizing, global competition and overcapacity," said Pammenter, in explaining the advent of the center's new hardiness program.

How does an executive cope, both professionally and privately, while the business flounders and the company board looks to replace him? Is there a way for the Type A company official to step back from a harrowing, 12 hour daily schedule and still keep the business fit? And can contentment - even happiness - be discovered at the helm of corporate power?

More than stress management principles, said Pammenter, hardiness training imparts attitudes designed to help CEOs steer through everyday tension and the occasional disaster, while building a foundation of satisfaction and success on and off the job.

"We help people put their lives into them to pull away from fighting fires," said Pammenter, who recently started the program's first hardiness workshops with five local executives. Hardiness training was conceived 15 years ago by psychologist Sal Maddi, Pammenter's mentor, in a study of hundreds of Illinois Bell executives during the turbulent times prior to the massive AT&T Corp. breakup.

What he found was that 30 percent or so of the workers thrived amid the trauma and adversity, while the rest slowly disintegrated in the grip of alcoholism and declining health. Those executives who seemed to surf over the expanding rubble, Maddi discovered, were possessed of strong, positive beliefs about issues of commitment, control and challenge - the three C's, as he calls them - in their lives.

Officials who embraced challenge, for instance, "view life as a growth process and they see pressures and disruptions around them as experiences to learn from," Maddi noted in a research paper. He ultimately concluded that these sterling personal attributes could be taught to high-powered executives through workshop training, with the result of enhanced performance and wellness."

Company officials who have studied the hardiness concept under Maddi - who is now a UC Irvine professor - say the program was instrumental in transforming their outlook on work and play. "I'm no longer stressed, and I'm more effective and fulfilled," said Jack Light, the owner of Light Management, which provides business programs to companies. He also owns several real estate firms.

The program taught by Pammenter emphasizes nutrition, exercise, relaxation and the refinement of social skills. Before the class bell rings, prospective students fill out a 146 question, bare-all "Hardy Survey" inquiring about such intimate matters as whether they often cry, have difficulty concentrating and pray more than usual.

Pammenter then determines from the responses if the applicant's troubles are relatively mild or more serious. Those with relatively mild troubles would attend three two-hour workshops, while the others would attend eight two-hour meetings. The executive assigned to the more intensive course regimen usually shows signs of pronounced self-destructive behavior such as drinking and neglecting family members.

"They're trying to work their way out of trouble, but they end up doing more of the same," Pammenter said. Most often, these CEOs are found in declining smaller companies. When the cash flow begins to trickle, they begin to fret about their longevity at the company and drift toward the edge of burnout. "They're lucky of they can ride it out for three weeks," he noted.

Pammenter said his program faces a hurdle itself because some CEOs who have developed hard shells after a lifetime in the corporate milieu, may perceive a program like hardiness training as therapy for weaklings and losers. Such sentiments derive from what Pammenter calls "the John Wayne syndrome" afflicting American society.

"They figure that hard work got them where they are today, and it will keep them there," Pammenter said. "They have a lot of reinforcement for that view, so they're resistant to coming in and talking...But they're wrong."


What Idle Rich?
San Diego Union-Tribune 3/28/99

Many top executives are locked into the work zone, where "quit" and "retire" are words without meaning. At 79, Eli Calloway might be expected to be enjoying his hard earned fortune in some far-flung earthly paradise. That, however, would mean abandoning the helm of his beloved Callaway Golf in Carlsbad, one of the world's premier manufacturers of golf clubs and accessories.

"The worst thing in life is to be idle," says Calloway, explaining his aversion to retirement and why he skips vacations and often works deep into the weekend. "If you're not sufficiently challenged, you fade away".

Many of America's top executives just can't seem to quit. Whether driven by genetics, fear of poverty, or the thrill of the deal, they happily envision sitting at the end of the boardroom table well into their golden years. Many chief executives "are like human dynamos," notes management guru Manfred Kets de Vries, author of "Life and Death in the Executive Fast Lane"...these people get very restless on weekends," de Vries says. "They mow the grass twice, wash the car and clean up the garage, but they still feel itchy. In their heart of hearts, they really look forward to Monday morning.".....

At Scripps' Center For Executive Health in San Diego, staff psychologists often hear from company bigwigs who routinely put in 60 hour, sometimes 80 hour, work weeks. The impetus for that is a sense of self-worth and self-importance that comes only while immersed in the corporate milieu, says Arthur Pammenter, a psychologist at the facility. "These are people who have been recognized by society as being important because of the position they hold", Pammenter says. "They don't want to lose that".

One female executive recently confided that her obsession with work grew out of her childhood poverty. "I want to be obscenely wealthy," she told Pammenter. So, even after accumulating small fortunes, which could pay for high times until the final moments, some members of this rare breed balk at giving up their perceived source of strength.

Pammenter says the perspective business people have on money and happiness changes radically "as they move up the food chain. Suddenly, $2 million or $3 million isn't enough," he says. "They're playing in a more exclusive food chain". Any suggestion that they walk away with the gold watch at 65 is considered ludicrous. "If they go into retirement in Tahiti, they become just another Joe with a sailboat," Pammenter says...


KILLER JOBS - The Fast Lane Takes A Toll On Workers' Bodies, Minds
Los Angeles Business Journal 12/12/1998

A 27 year old accountant with chest pains, a political spin doctor with a bleeding ulcer, a commuter who has a heart attack in early morning traffic, an investment banker with dangerously high blood pressure - all are examples of the toll that long hours and stressful conditions can take on body and mind.

Experts say that executives who continually work 80 to 90 hours a week with little sleep, a poor diet, lack of exercise and chronic stress may be at risk of suffering a multitude of health problems. "Our society endorses the position that people should just keep going and going until they drive themselves into the ground," said Dr. Karen Wolfe, manager of work-site wellness at Health Net in Woodland Hills. "Working long hours, traveling and commuting in excess can all contribute to a weakening of the immune system. And our immune system determines whether we get sick or not."...

"The toll it takes is well known," said Art Pammenter, a psychologist at Scripps Memorial Hospital in San Diego, who specializes in the relationship between work and stress. "Stress can lead to a wellness breakdown. The stress gets worse and worse and finally people just burn out. It can end up being very painful for the person, especially if the person has derived most of their self-esteem from their job"....

Experts say executives sometimes relieve their stress in the worst possible ways, by abusing alcohol and drugs rather than exercising and eating a healthy diet. "(People) never think the substance they are using to reduce their work stress will only cause them more stress," said Jeanne Obert, director of outpatient services at Matrix-UCLA Alcoholism and Addiction Medicine Service. "It is a lot easier to have a drink. People respond to stress in a not very reasonable way. (They) look for immediate relief."....

Stressing Statistics - Stress has been called America's number 1 health problem, spawning an avalanche of research studies. Here are some of the findings:

  • 75 - 90 percent of visits to primary care physicians are for stress related problems.
    The National Safety Council estimates that 1 million employees are absent on an average workday because of stress related problems.
  • 78 percent of Americans describe their job as stressful The vast majority say their jobs have become more stressful over the past ten years.
  • Job stress is estimated to cost American industry $200 billion to $300 billion annually, as assessed by absenteeism, diminished productivity, employee turnover, accidents, direct medical, legal and insurance fees.
  • 89 percent of adults describe experiencing "high levels of stress." Over half complained of this at least once or twice a week, and more than four says it occurs on a daily basis.

The World Health Organization has described job stress as a "world wide epidemic" and said the workplace is far and away the leading source of stress for adult Americans.

  HomeStressStress Management Treatment ProgramTinnitusRelaxationYouStressCoaching
ArticlesPersonal CounselingMilitary Family IssuesConsultingBiographyContact Us

Arthur Pammenter Ph.D.
Scripps Ranch: 9815 Carroll Canyon Road, Suite 101, San Diego, CA 92131
Phone: 858 831-0795 Fax: 858 271-6426 Email:

Web Design by Dana Varsane Web Design