Learn To Avoid Boardroom Burnout
San Diego Union-Tribune, 11/21/98
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 perspective...help
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
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,"
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
"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
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
- 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.