Jan 04, No 1, Sec 1
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Mar 2004, No 1, Sec 1
April 04, No. 1, Sec 1
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Dec 2004, No 1, Sec 1
Dec 2004, No. 1, Sec 2

The Stress Doc Letter
Cybernotes from the Online Psychohumorist ™

SEP 2004, Sec. II

Main Essay:

[Ed. Note:  The following two pieces have appeared in recent Stress Doc Newsletters.  However, the pieces have been significantly modified.  In other words, both have been works in progress.  The first one, "Thermostatic Leadership," has been both tightened up and has a new case example.  The second piece is a slimmed down version of the SPEED Rap.  Enjoy these leaner-and meaner variations.]

A Thermostatic Framework for Leadership and Motivation

 “My employees just don’t seem to understand what I say to them.  Are we speaking the same language?  When I make assignments or give them goals, they give me back work that’s different than what I had asked.  The work is late, incorrect, or sloppy.  What’s wrong with them?”

 Have you sung these lyrics before?  You are not alone.  Whose fault is it anyway?  Where do we place blame?  Maybe neither party is solely responsible; maybe it’s a matter of reaching a different level of understanding between you and your employees.  Of course, the obvious question:  how to reach a level of understanding and effective communication that has both parties working together to achieve the desired outcomes – from meeting (or exceeding) performance goals to experiencing job satisfaction?  Toward these ends, we offer a new management problem-solving tool and process called Thermostatic Leadership (TL).   We believe TL will help the manager/supervisor and the employee strengthen the working relationship and help meet their performance objectives.


Thermostatic Definition

 Here’s a working definition:

 Thermostatic Leadership is a negotiation process between the supervisor and the employee that encourages input, discussion, and the mutual establishment of role and responsibility expectations, performance objectives, as well as ongoing, two-way feedback that positively influences the quality and productivity of the working relationship and the work output.

 While the supervisor or manger ultimately has responsibility for the process and outcome, the importance of articulating needs and concerns, providing timely feedback and flexible problem-solving means that both parties contribute to or may even take the lead in initiating or adjusting thermostatic settings. Each person strives to recognize and articulate both subjective and objective needs and expectations as well as performance baselines, operational concerns, and comfort levels.   When supervisor and employee are on the same thermostatic page, there is:

 a) increased understanding between parties around project expectations,

b) increased genuine “buy-in” with project methods and outcomes, and

c) increased recognition and rapid reporting of errors and misunderstandings, i.e., it is natural for there to be some deviation from initial baseline expectations and standards based on actual supervisor-employee behaviors, resources, and performance.  (This normalization of error along with timely corrective mechanisms is especially salient in today’s “do more with less” or, too often, “crisis management” organizational climate.)


Thermostatic Analogy

 The thermostat analogy seems apt, especially when flexibility and feedback are operational requisites.  The thermostat is an instrument that adjusts the warmth or coolness of a room when ambient conditions are at variance with the current baseline temperature setting.  For example, if people perceive a room to be too cold, the thermostatic setting can be moved up and warmer air streams out.  If the room becomes too warm, the thermostat will kick out cool air.  And, if the resultant room temperature is still not desirable, the thermostat can be further lowered or raised.  When just right, when all are comfortable, the thermostat is left alone.  Consider the example of several people living in the same house.  These folks may discuss, negotiate, and decide what the temperature setting should be.  Another scenario has one person or a select group of people setting the rules (or making correct or incorrect assumptions) about who can adjust the thermostat or what the optimal comfort level setting should be.  Sometimes the bill payer is the thermostatic numbers setter.

Many thermostats even contain programming features so that the temperature is raised and lowered according to a pre-set program.  Or, in some auditoriums the thermostat is under lock and key.  No one can adjust it, but if enough people are too cold, they will complain.  The “boss” or engineer comes in with the key and raises the thermostat.

 Then there’s this thermostatic office possibility:  some self-sacrificing souls may appear to be adapting to the uncomfortable ambient conditions.  These folks don’t complain overtly but they indirectly protest by slowing down their work efforts.  In a public setting, some uncomfortable individuals may choose to leave and/or not return.  If you were a restaurant owner, for example, this latter scenario would not be good for business.


Operational Components and Pillars of TL and the Challenge of Authority

 As noted, the components of Thermostatic Leadership are:

1) open and real dialogue between supervisor-employee,

2) unless circumstances dictate otherwise, a negotiated decision-making process with objectives and action plans

3) honest and timely two-way performance feedback and the monitoring of project progress.

 The effectiveness of such an open framework is based on pillars of integrity, that is, the participants’:  a) personal self-awareness and professional maturity, b) job-related knowledge, skill and experience and c) capacity for clear and objective, assertive and empathic communication.  And, understandably, a key challenge to the integrity of Thermostatic Leadership and its goals of open dialogue, trust building, and high performance is the status and power differences between the supervisor or manager and the employee.

Many of us have some issues with authority:  a) whether it’s competently and confidently enacting the various roles and responsibilities of being an authority figure or b) whether it’s dealing with the issues and emotions related to control and dependency when in a subordinate role.  When authority issues are a source of internal or interpersonal static oftentimes “message sent is not message received.”  (And if an authority intimidates an employee, or vice versa, sometimes the message – especially the “bad news” – is never sent.)


Key Dynamics and Assumptions

 Key dynamics for a successful Thermostatic Setting/Leadership process include:

a) the overall open and honest communication – the degree of trust – between the parties,

b) professional vs. personal boundary issues or social or emotional closeness, i.e., the degree of formality and informality between the parties, for example, is the relationship seen in a hierarchical, supervisor-subordinate context or more in the context of teammates or a collegial partnership,

c) the amount of supervisory direction needed or employee discretion allowed for successful performance outcomes, i.e., the degree of independence, dependence and/or interdependence displayed by the individuals as well as comprising the working relationship,

d) degree of perceived safety and/or ease in acknowledging any static or discomfort in the initial expectations around roles and responsibilities, resources, and performance output, i.e., the original thermostatic setting, 

e) degree of perceived safety and/or ease in the timely reporting of actual or anticipated errors from the initial negotiated performance (thermostatic) standard, and

f) based on the above feedback, the ability of both parties to establish anew effective (“do the right thing”) and efficient (“do the thing right”) baseline thermostatic settings and the valid monitoring of results.

 Let’s highlight three key working assumptions:

1. Need for Openness.  When openness and give and take are the norm, both parties are comfortable listening and asking questions and sharing concerns, or are working toward this level of openness.  This give and take includes defining the project problem, articulating expectations regarding the process of problem solving, and agreeing on measures of progress, successful performance, and project completion,

 2. Need for Uncertainty.  Oftentimes, both the supervisor and the employee may need to view an initial thermostatic setting process as an experiment or a guesstimate regarding eventual comfort levels and outcome projections.  If either party insists on rigid control of the process, rapid and honest feedback and flexible problem solving will likely be inhibited.  Also, engaging in an uncertain learning curve process invariably is accompanied by startup and performance anxiety.  It may not only be the employee feeling performance pressure.  A supervisor reporting to a perfectionist, overly critical, or impatient boss may feel compelled to micromanage the employee, thereby short-circuiting an open and potentially productive thermostatic process.

 Of course, thermostatic learning and leading will likely be subverted when a supervisor or manager is overly invested in an employee making the supervisor or manager look good.  Subversion also occurs when a manager is determined not to have any employee make error waves or expose the supervisor or the department.  High tech and high touch or emotional support during this period of trial and error is strongly recommended.

 3. Need for Error.  In today’s “always on” business climate, projects are started even though the perfect template or prototype hasn’t been extensively tested or completed.  Only by jumping into the water can you really gauge the project temperature, its depth, and where the alligators are lurking.  (Hence the need for rapid corrections.)  Absent a dysfunctional or mistake-riddled pattern of performance, error is first and foremost seen as an opportunity to mutually strengthen the effectiveness and efficiency of the thermostatic settings.  Engaging with errors helps generate ongoing adaptive responses that will increase the quality and productivity of performance outcomes and ultimate goal achievement.  And, for example, a supervisor perceiving employee error as a basis for learning curve opportunity and growth will likely enhance interpersonal comfort and trust levels.  Naturally, this assumes that the employee makes productive course corrections in line with the newly negotiated thermostatic settings.


Case Examples I:  Closeness vs. Distance

Here are two vignettes that illustrate common work relationship and performance expectation problems.  Both examples assume the following psychosocial premise:  People come to the workplace from varied demographic and geographic backgrounds bringing an array of ethnic-cultural values.  Individuals also differ by personality type, e.g., tendencies toward introversion and extraversion, as well as motivation levels, e.g., the degree of balance between the need for achievement and the need for affiliation.  And people carry around personal and professional expectations often shaped by the individual’s work and organizational history. 

This real-life example provided by one of the authors highlights the importance of clarifying personal professional boundary expectations as well as the misunderstanding that can occur with unacknowledged and unrecognized assumptions.  (The supervisor’s name has been changed.):

 Several years ago I worked for Peter Sawyer in Human Resources at a major computer company.  It was part of the corporate culture for people to socialize with one another, maybe even become friends.  I was working for the company for four years; in fact I grew up in this company.  It was a great fit for me.  My boss hired Sawyer to come in as my manager.  Sawyer is a straightforward, tell it like it is kind of person.  I didn’t care as I was doing my work and doing it well.  We were getting along, time was moving on, and Sawyer let me do my job.

One day, knowing that Sawyer and his wife were new to the area, I decided to invite them to my house.  It would be a good opportunity for each of us to get to know one another more casually; perhaps in a somewhat more intimate setting.  When I asked Sawyer he said, "NO, I don't do that.  I don't fraternize with employees!"

 I was taken aback.  I thought that was odd and his response was a bit abrupt.  Shortly after that I wondered if he thought I was trying to get on his good side.  People at this company get together all the time.  It was not too much later that Sawyer invited my family to dinner at his house.  I wondered about the change; why was it now okay to "fraternize."  I didn't get the answer then but with newfound understanding I can answer it now.

 Recently, I asked Sawyer about it and his answer didn't surprise me.  He said the culture of his former employer established a definite boundary between the professional and the personal.  He had brought that expectation with him:  coworkers don't socialize with one another.  I had thought he was wrong for not accepting my invitation.  He had thought I was out of bounds for asking.  Neither one of us were wrong.  The misunderstanding was based on the divergent perspectives from our varying organizational experiences. 

 This example illustrates how expectations derived from past experience definitely color and shape our positions, preferences, and possibilities: believing can affect seeing as much as "seeing is believing."  And adding to this psychological and communicational complexity, the sources of our beliefs or the reasons why we hold onto them so strongly are not always fully conscious.

 In conclusion, when it came to out of office socializing, the individual thermostatic expectations and boundary-comfort settings were clashing, if not culturally contradictory.  In addition, we are dealing with different thermostatic personalities.  In our example, it’s clear that our co-author functions best in a very warm to hot thermostatic temperature range, especially when it comes to interpersonal openness.  (She’s a “red.”)  However, it’s likely that Sawyer saw his employee as inappropriately forward, as being in an invasive “red hot” state.  Conversely, Sawyer is at the opposite range of the thermostat, functioning optimally in colder settings.  The co-author’s initial impression was of a supervisor being old-fashioned and rigid, operating from a cool if not “ice blue” state.

 And not surprisingly, the goal of Thermostatic Leadership is to negotiate a range (often times in the mid-range or a mixture of warm and cool elements) where each person has a “good enough” comfort level and both can operate with optimal effectiveness to reach their goals.


Thermostatic Leadership in Action

 Now, using the “dinner invitation” scenario, let’s explore an array of problems-solving responses using a thermostatic perspective.  If Sawyer had used this leadership approach might the result have been real communication and a better understanding?  For example, Sawyer could have brought up the issue of expectations and/or comfort level:  "At my former company we did not socialize with our employees.  Here that may be the custom.  Let me think it over and see if I'm comfortable making some adjustments.  I'll let you know by Thursday."

 Here's another option.  Instead of this manager saying, "No I don't do that," (which, without further elaboration, can be taken as superiority-driven and controlling) Sawyer could have acknowledged that he was uneasy with his supervisee’s request.  In other words, based on her company experience, the author's thermostatic-socializing setting was at variance with Sawyer’s socializing/intimacy comfort level.  Either way, a clearer announcement of his thermostatic baseline would have increased the author’s understanding and lessened the likelihood of her taking Sawyer’s position personally.  This supervisor's decision had been based on his value system, his comfort level, and his past set of circumstances; it really did not involve the author or the professionalism of her request.

 Finally, let’s note a third pragmatic possibility that has both sides “letting go” of their absolute initial positions or formulations.  What if the employee’s offer had remained within the scope of the work boundary, that is, if she had invited her supervisor to lunch?  This might mean tabling her desire for more casual contact or for meeting in a more informal or intimate setting.  At the same time, it’s an offer that may well deactivate Sawyer’s quick to kick in, strict boundary line regarding fraternization.

 The practical offer challenges “all or none” thinking and demonstrates patience, foresight, and a willingness to modify one’s initial position or expectation.  Such an “out of the (lunch) box” scenario may well provide a transitional option and setting.  Both parties may gradually warm to “give and take” thermostatic processes and settings that facilitate greater closeness and less distance.  The likely result is greater flexibility in the temperature and nature of the working relationship without compromising professional boundaries and interpersonal comfort levels.


Case Example II:  Discordant Performance Expectations


This bare bones scenario involves HR Supervisor Tanya and Employee Sam.  Tanya is giving an assignment to install an HR Benefits Program on the company website.  (She is not a computer wiz.)  Tonya is aware that in addition to being an HR Specialist, Sam has had some programming experience, though Sam is not directly familiar with this particular software package.  Tonya has been a supervisor for two years; Sam has been with the company for one year but has been supervised by Tanya for only two months.

 By following the dialogue between Tonya and Sam, we will illustrate the thermostatic setting process – from a problematic beginning to a more successful finish.  Key components of this process include:  a) expectations around competency and experience, b) expectations regarding timelines, c) degree of genuine communication, and d) effectiveness of mid-course corrections.  Tanya and Sam are about to begin a project assignment meeting.

 Tanya:  Sam, I’d like to have the new HR Benefits Program Elan Vitale (EV) installed on the company website.  I know you have web and programming experience; are you familiar with this program?

 Sam:  I’m not familiar with this specific program, but having skimmed the manual, I know I’ve worked with similar programs.  It shouldn’t be a problem getting it installed and running.

 Tanya:  So you don’t feel it will be a problem getting EV operationalized, including uploading the various files?

 Sam:  No, it’s a slam-dunk!

 (Actually, Sam has some questions about his own experience and proficiency with this program, but is not sharing his questions or concerns.  He doesn’t want Tanya to think he’s not knowledgeable or capable.)

 Tanya:  Can we have EV running in a week?

 Sam:  No problemo.

 Tanya:  Great.  Just give me a call when you are finished.

 Ten days have elapsed and Sam has not been able to upload the data.  Tanya went to the website expecting to see EV installed and running.  Not seeing the program, she was frustrated.  She calls Sam into her office and, in an impatient tone, confronts him.

 Tanya:  Sam, what happened?  I thought you said you would have EV totally operational within the week.

 After making some half-hearted excuses, Sam finally confesses.

 Sam:  I guess I really wasn’t as familiar with the program installation, operation and uploading process as I thought.

 Tanya:  Sam, you seemed so confident.  Did you have any questions or concerns about this assignment or your comfort and confidence level when we first discussed the project?

 Sam sheepishly nods his head.  Now Tanya is really exasperated.

 Tanya:  Why didn’t you say so?  Why weren’t you more honest about your concerns?

 Sam:  I didn’t want you to think I wasn’t up to the task.

 Tanya:  And I just assumed when I didn’t hear from you that all was going smoothly.  Hmmm.  I’m angry about not getting honest feedback initially.  At the same time, I do appreciate you being forthcoming now.  Clearly, we both need to take a look at how we set up this project.

 After hearing Sam’s concerns about the project and his own skills, experience and comfort level, Tanya continues.

 Tanya:  Sam, do you feel you can successfully handle this project?  And if so, what will it take?

 Sam:  If I get some consulting support from IT regarding installment and uploading, I should be able to complete the project in one week.

 After Sam spells out whom he will confer with and by when, Tanya continues.

 Tanya:  That makes sense.  I also realize that there are other issues that we need to get on the table:  a) your reluctance to share your concerns and comfort level with the assignment, b) your not getting back to me sooner when facing installation problems, and c) the unproductive use of time and energy.  Then I need to acknowledge my contribution to this breakdown:  a) my taking at

face value your confident projections and assuming you were comfortable with the assignment and b) my not monitoring the process or, at least, having us set up a formal mid-stream meeting to assess how things were proceeding.

 A discussion ensues around the above issues.  An agreement is reached:  Sam will be more upfront with his experience, skillset, and comfort level, including project strengths and uncertainties, when taking on assignments.  When advisable, Sam and Tanya will review potential resources.  Sam will also be timelier about reporting blocks or errors, e.g., 24-48 hours depending on the project and timelines.  Tanya will provide more startup structure; however, her goal is not to be a micromanager.  For this project, they both agree that Sam will provide a brief daily email regarding the IT consultation and the overall progress of installation.  They will also have a face-to-face meeting after three days to review progress on the assignment.  In a week, they will meet in-person to evaluate project status and Sam’s perspective on his performance, resource needs, and overall progress.


 Closing Analysis

 Now, through more genuine dialogue, both parties are on the same thermostatic page; both are more aware of each other’s beliefs and expectations and both are more comfortable with the thermostatic performance settings.  And finally, with the successful completion of the project, both will give the other recognition for their efforts and support.

This experience has helped dismantle some barriers to genuine dialogue between supervisor and employee.  What has each person learned?  Let’s begin with Tanya:  a) she has a better understanding of Sam’s strengths, defenses, and vulnerabilities, and b) she is also aware of the ineffectiveness of her unstructured approach to initiating and monitoring this project by assuming Sam was completely up to the task.

 As for Sam:  a) he is less defensive about acknowledging his need for training and/or support; he is more comfortable asking for help or reporting problems; he is less fearful of being judged negatively, b) he is more trusting of Tanya and of their ability to establish realistic expectations as well as achievable objectives and action plans.


Setting Roles and Responsibilities

 Who sets the thermostat?  What happens when the employee sets the thermostat?  Of course, the employee's general and situation-specific experience, quality track record, and maturity levels will come into play when considering and/or negotiating the degree of discretionary thermostatic setting and decision-making.  Demonstrated levels of "authority, autonomy, and accountability" -- the "Triple A of Professional Responsibility" -- are key components in determining an interactive thermostatic setting process.  Perhaps your employees won't have full control of the thermostat but they can make adjustments (and then get your feedback).  Naturally, in a healthy supervisor-employee thermostatic process, there needs to be mutual feedback channels.  Over time and with trust both parties can participate.  Ultimately, the power (and responsibility) is in the manager's hand; but in most circumstances there should be opportunity for the employee to have input, if not independently set, general thermostatic and output standards.  Ask your employees where the thermostat should be set, negotiate the baseline, and maintain open communication when the setting needs to be raised or lowered.


How to Start the Process

 Based on as assessment of the employee’s abilities and an assessment of comfort levels, you can start by setting the thermostat at 70 degrees and then discuss what that means to each of you.  Or, consider negotiating a mutual acceptable range.  For example:

 “The report is due by Wed” (the outer limit), or

“The report should be completed by the end of the week,” or

“The project’s status will be reported preferably by Wed., definitely by Thursday.”   In each of the above directives, consider adding the following:  “Considering your current workload, is there any reason why you cannot have the report to me by then?”

 Next, create an expectation that your report will give you feedback.  Both parties need to buy into the thermostatic process.  If the employee doesn't come back, does that mean he or she is comfortable with the setting?  Based on Case Example II – Discordant Performance Expectations – project startup miscues, we don't suggest making this assumption.  One approach for being on the same thermostatic page is achieved by saying, “If you have any questions with the reasonableness of the setting (or have concerns with your comfort level) let me know.  If you don't come back to me, I will assume you are in agreement with the setting."  Even better, perhaps, build in a routine checking-in time.  This should make it easier, for example, for an employee to come back and inform you that the assignment will not be completed on time.  It certainly can make a difference in your stress level.  It's easier to "Practice Safe Stress" when the employee gives you feedback regarding problems with the initial thermostatic/task setting or his projected time line a few days ahead of the due date as opposed to telling you at the eleventh hour, “Oh by the way, I’m not going to make the deadline.”  

 If a deadline is missed or the assignment was not started (or started considerably late), there is thermostatic error.  Try to determine the problematic factors in an objective and nonjudgmental manner.  (Just the term thermostatic error seems to involve less "I'm right, your wrong" finger-pointing.  Remember, "To err is human….")  Of course, being nonjudgmental does not negate the need for people taking responsibility for acknowledging the critical factors contributing to operational error or the need for modifying obstacles to a desired outcome.  Was your initial temperature setting objectively realistic?  Was the employee’s buy-in on the setting genuine?  It's time to go back and review the settings.  Make sure that all parties agree on the thermostatic baselines and contingencies for modification.  Examine, clarify, and provide the instructions for the assignment.  Does the employee truly understand your expectations?  Ask him/her to repeat back the instructions and to paraphrase the procedures if and when running into problems with the assignment.  As indicated earlier, in this system, unless excessive or egregious, error equates with opportunity for performance improvement and trust building in the supervisor-employee relationship.


One-Way and Team Setting


There are times when managers must exercise their right to engage in unidirectional communication.  An example would be when the employee's safety is at risk.  The manager in this case sets the temperature and whether the employee likes the feel of it or not, he or she can't change it.  Perhaps at a later or safer point, dissatisfaction can be expressed and the manager and employee can restart the thermostatic process.  Of course, if the employee believes the manager is acting in an unsafe, unprofessional, or unethical manner, and the latter refuses to make course corrections, then an employee may be compelled to have a third party intervene in this process.

 Also, when a team is working towards a common goal, there must be consensus and good enough buy-in.  If one person does not agree on the temperature setting, hopefully, he/she can adjust in the interest of working as a team member.  The employee can put on a sweater and still be productive within the team.  Obviously, achieving team consensus through a thermostatic process will involve both one-on-one and small group negotiation, including at times working with positive allies and disarming negative cliques.  Clearly, a process factor to be weighed is the investment of upfront time.  Even though a thermostatic leadership or management process may take more time, whether in a one-on-one or in a team setting, why should a manager consider this procedural paradigm?  By involving your people early on in the thermostatic process you will gain the most employee buy-in to and understanding of the company's mission as well as your specific goals and objectives. Your employees will more likely believe they are part of the big vision and daily operations.  They will have more meaningful input along with a greater sense of control in their job performance and, hopefully, more productive learning curves. They may also report greater job satisfaction.  And the benefits are not all high task.  Don't be surprised if you and your employees reach new levels of comfort and trust.  Now wouldn't that be really cool!




1. As you and your employee establish thermostatic settings, be aware of differences in backgrounds, personality, and experience.  Acknowledge the differences.  Ask: “Can you help me understand your thinking, that is, can you help me better grasp your thermostatic preferences, comfort, and discomfort levels, etc.?”

2. Reduce the potential for personality and gender (or race, age conflict, etc. issues).  For example, consider asking:  Does my being female (or male) affect our ability to communicate in any way?  If so, how so?

3. Allow for startup vulnerability and learning curve anxiety when trying to institute a thermostatic process.  Remember, errors usually are perceived (at least initially) as natural and highly functional, not abnormal or dysfunctional.

4. Flexibly use your "authority" personae.  What do your employees expect from you as the "authority figure?"  Despite being the authority, whenever possible try to achieve an adult-to-adult communication exchange rather than a superior to subordinate mode.

5. Use discipline, reward, and a process of communicating/thermostatic setting and negotiating that both you and the employee find workable, mutually motivating, and that leads to successful outcomes.  Build in periodic check-in points for monitoring comfort and output levels.

6. Establish trust and create an environment in which employees feel safe providing you feedback.  Be open to employee input and you and your employees will begin to dismantle bricks from that wall of misunderstanding, fear, and nonproductive distance.  (Most people don't always expect "agreement"; they do, however, want some "acknowledgment" that their message – their thermostatic offering – has been received.)  If your employees think you are listening and not dismissing them, you begin to establish trust.  People feel it's safe to disagree or challenge constructively the authority. 

7. Turn a confrontation into collaboration.  Constructive engagement means employees are not devaluing or disrespecting your position but are confronting your take on issues and problems, procedures, and/or solutions.  The payoff for this openness and the subsequent mutual thermostatic setting exchange is a more highly invested and motivated problem-solver, and a greater sense of supervisor-employee partnership.

24/7 SPEED Rap:  Survival Strategies

By Mark Gorkin, "The Stress Doc"

What is the source of modern duress?
Why not today's mantra:  "Do more with less!"
And forget that life-line between work and home
Your soul has been transferred to a cellular phone.

But...with 24/7 your ticket to heaven
Or at least a promotion
Why still the whining and all the commotion?
Hey the question, "To be or not to be"
Is quickly resolved with an SUV.

Unless, alas, as a matter of course,
Your job's now in India and you've been outsourced.
Still, no going postal on that boss.
The powers that be truly feel your loss.

So what is the answer to modern duress?
Should you try Prozac?
Is it time to confess
To ebay shopping -- which may be a warning
When you're clicking madly at three in the morning?

But relax, have no fear...
The Stress Doc is here to lay worries to rest
Now listen and learn to Practice Safe Stress!

As you sprint to the wire with blood pressure higher
Timeless mind-body tips to heed
For slowing down, getting feet on the ground
And building Natural SPEED.

"S" is for "Sleep"
Now don't be cheap
Seven hours, at least
To be a beauty with mental acuity
Not that snooze-button bashing beast.

"P" stands for "Priority"
You can't do it all everyday.
Urgent means now but important can wait.
Do you know how...to "N & N"?:
Just say "No and Negotiate!"

"E" is for the "Empathy"
Found in a caring shoulder.
But all give without take is a big mistake
For now you shoulder a boulder.

The second "E" is for "Exercise"
Start pumping iron or those thighs.
You may not need SSRIs.
Try thirty minutes of non-stop spin
For your mood uplifting endorphin.

And, finally, "D" is for a healthy "Diet"
Many would rather die than try it.
To manage foods you crave
Grieve, "let go" and then be brave
Sending diet fads to an early grave.

So eat those fruits and veggies
Try fish oils and soy protein.
For too much fats and sugar
Excess alocohol and caffeine
Is a rollercoaster formula
For an artery-clogged machine.

It's time to end this Shrink Rap
With final tips for you --
"A firm 'No' a day keeps the ulcers away, and the hostilities too."
So to lessen daily woes, "Do know your limits, don't limit your 'No's!"

Ponder this Stress Doc wit and wisdom
Try to live it day after day:
Burnout is not a sign of failure
You simply gave yourself away.

Remember, sometimes less is more
And more is really less.
Balance work and play, faith and love
And, of course...Practice Safe Stress!

Heads Up:

SEP Programs:  Completed

1. Washington Navy Yard. 
Supervisor's Conference.  75 minute workshop on The Science and Art of Personal Motivation and 75 minute workshop on Managing Stress and Team survival Skills.

2. Estrin Paralegal Conference. 
One hour featured speaker; Stress and Team Building program; Chicago. 

3. US Dept. of Justice.
  90 minute Stress, Team Building & Humor program for Environment and Natural Resources Division; Annapolis, MD.


1. Training/Marketing Kit:

Want to strengthen your ability to lead or market a stress workshop or any kind of speaking/training program?  Consider the Stress Doc Training/Marketing Kit, which includes both "how to" manual, 20-minute highlights video, and articles, as well as the opportunity for phone coaching.  For more info: Training/Marketing Kit http://stressdoc.com/kitbook.htm or email.

2. Practice Safe Stress CD
This 30-minute audio CD is divided into four sections:

Section I:  The Four Stages of Burnout
1. Physical, Mental & Emotional Exhaustion
2. Shame & Doubt
3. Cynicism & Callousness
4. Failure, Helplessness & Crisis

Section II:  Three Steps to Burnout Recovery
(based on the Stress Doc's own rehab from burnout)
1. Good Grief
2. Four "R"s of Rehabilitation & Rejuvenation
a) Four "R"s -- Running, Reading, Writing and Retreating
3. Transition & Diversification
a) letting go and shaking up your work-life puzzle and paradigm

Section III:  Two Burnout Prevention Strategies

A. Natural SPEED
a) Sleep, Priorities, Empathy, Exercise & Diet

B. Four "C"s of Psychological Hardiness -- based on research with former AT&T execs
a) Commitment, Control, Change & Conditioning

Section IV:  Two Shrink Raps (TM)

A. Stress Doc's Stress Rap
B. Double-edged Depression

Price:  $15

3.  Stress Doc Books:

a) Really Hot:  The Paperback Version of Practice Safe Stress "live":

Practicing Safe Stress:  Healing and Laughing in the Face of Stress, Burnout, & Depression; Stress Doc Enterprises

Published:  2004; Pages:  372

  $20 + $4.95 priority shipping in US; $3.95 in Metro, DC area; $7 in Mexico and Canada; other international destinations to be determined

Or, download: The Stress Doc's Store Front

Ebook Price:  $15

Practice Safe Stress tackles the "Toxic-Traumatic Trio" -- stress, burnout, and depression.  Learn practical and playful, inspiring and insightful strategies for transforming these toxins into life-affirming energy, creative focus, and goal-achievement.  Bringing a personal, professional, and organizational perspective, the book is alive with imaginative language and memorable "how to" ideas for:

§ Understanding the "Four Stages of Burnout," the "Erosive Spiral"
§ Rebuilding your fire and developing "Natural SPEED"
§ Achieving liberation through "Emancipation Procrastination"
§ Reducing conflict as a healing or motivational "psychohumorist" ™

There are satirical essays on "lean-and-MEAN" managers and on mismanaged downsizings.  Learn to "laugh in the face of layoffs" and ponder the possibility of "Van Gogh, Prozac, and Creativity."  The Stress Doc also shares his his own trials, errors, and triumphs in battling the "Toxic Trio."

Safe Stress provides many discrete "Top Ten" lists and "strategic tips" essays useful as educational/informational handouts.  To quote the Internet Newsroom:  Your Guide to the World of Electronic Factgathering:  "The most outstanding feature…is his 'psychohumor' essays.  Always witty, thought-provoking, and helpful."  With this easy-to-follow, fast-paced, and fun health and wellness guide, you'll return often to Practice Safe Stress.


b) The Four Faces of Anger:  Model and Method
Transforming Anger, Rage and Conflict Into Inspiring Attitude and Behavior

The "Four Faces of Anger" presents an elegantly simple yet intellectually powerful model that will challenge your beliefs about anger -- both regarding its range of emotion and its potential for positive communication.  The book is a dynamic blend of popular psychohumor articles, essays, case examples and short vignettes, as well as Stress Doc Q & As and even "Shrink Rap" ™ lyrics.  You will gain ideas and tools, skills and techniques for personal control, playful intervention and conflict mastery.  Learn to:

Ø Identify self-defeating styles of anger and violence-prone personalities
Ø Transform hostility and rage into assertion and passion
Ø Confront directly or disarm outrageously critics and (passive) aggressors
Ø Bust the guilt not burst a gut
Ø Prevent emails from becoming e-missiles

And finally, his years as a multimedia psychotherapist and as a Stress and Violence Prevention Consultant for the US Postal Service yield a survival and spiritual mantra at the heart of the "Four Faces of Anger":

Seek the higher power of Stress Doc humor…May the Farce Be With You!

Published:  2004; Pages:  114

Paperback:  $23.95 (includes shipping and handling)
E-Book:  $15


c) Paper Book -- Truly on the Cutting Edge

From Stress Brakes and Shrink Rap to Safe Stress and Cool Moon Cats:
The Wit and Wisdom of the Stress Doc, Stress Doc Enterprises, 1995

A 90 page compilation of my former syndicated radio essays, pioneering songs in the field of psychologically humorous rap music -- "Shrink Rap" Productions - a creative visualization poem and other humorous lyrics/poems. "Stress Brake" radio essays are short (300 words), fast-paced and witty, covering such topics as stress, burnout, anger and conflict resolution, time management, creativity, men's and women's issues, romantic relationships, codependency, etc. (They make excellent fillers for newsletters.)

Price: $20 (which covers priority postage and handling)

To purchase books and/or tape, make check payable to:  Mark Gorkin

Send check to:

Mark Gorkin
Stress Doc Enterprises
1616 18th Street, NW  #312
Washington, DC 20009-2542

Questions?  Call 202-232-8662 or email stressdoc@aol.com


4. Chat Group:

Stop by my AOL/Digital City Shrink Rap (TM) and Group Chat DC Debate Tuesdays, 9:30-11pm EST DC Support Chat (Alas, only for AOL members.)

Mark Gorkin, LICSW, "The Stress Doc" ™,
is a keynote and international/Celebrity Cruise Lines motivational speaker, psychotherapist, syndicated writer, and author of his new book, Practice Safe Stress:  Healing and Laughing in the Face of Stress, Burnout & Depression and The Four Faces of Anger:  Transforming Anger, Conflict and Rage Into Inspiring Attitude and Behavior.  He was the keynote speaker for the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM)--Maryland state chapters at their 2004 Leadership Conference.  The Doc, AOL's "Online Psychohumorist," is a training and OD Consultant for numerous companies, associations and government agencies.  Interviewed by the BBC and Biography magazine, Mark has a multi-award-winning, USA Today Online "HotSite" -- www.stressdoc.com .  The site was selected as workplace resource in a National Public Radio feature on "Bad Bosses."  For more info, email stressdoc@aol.com or call 202-232-8662.

(c)  Mark Gorkin  2004
Shrink Rap Productions