The Stress Doc Letter
Cybernotes from the Online Psychohumorist (tm)
Sep 2010, No. I, Sec. I
Fight when you can
Take flight when you must
Flow like a dream
In the Phoenix we trust!
Table of Contents
Stress Doc Q & A: Seven Highly Effective Habits of Trust-Expanding
Shrink Rap I: When Dynamic Business Owners Are Also Dysfunctional-Enabling
Spouses: Key Diagnostic Warning Signs
Testimonials: Nevada Women, Infants & Children (WIC), 4th Sustainment
13th Expeditionary Support Command, Ft. Hood, TX, and ASPIRE (Asian Pacific
Internal Revenue Employees) National Conference
Readers Submissions: The Economy Is So Bad that...
Phone Coaching-Consultation-Counseling with the Stress Doc ™
Offerings: Books, CDs, Training/Marketing Kit: Email
firstname.lastname@example.org or go to www.stressdoc.com for more info.
1. Q & A. "Seven Highly Effective Habits of Trust-Expanding
Organizations." Responding to a query from a WorkforceWeek.com reader, the
Stress Doc outlines seven steps for rebuilding organizational trust:
1) Hold a Focus Group
2) Acknowledge “Hidden Agendas”
3) Talk Straight and Ask Good Questions
4) Don’t Bad Mouth Others Behind Their Back, Especially Folks No Longer in
5) Don’t Overpromise and Under Deliver; Keep Your Commitments
6) Create a Learning-Trust Building Culture
7) Extend Trust
2. Shrink Rap. "When Dynamic Business Owners Are Also
Dysfunctional-Enabling Spouses: Key Diagnostic Warning Signs."
Analyzing work with two phone coaching clients -- successful male and female
business owners -- the Stress Doc outlines "Common Signs of
Cognitive-Emotional-Behavioral Conflict, Codependency and Marital/Family
Stress Doc Q & A:
Seven Highly Effective Habits of Trust-Expanding Organizations
An HR training analyst recently asked WorkforceWeek.com for some
practical steps in helping an organization repair broken trust. The e-zine
passed along the request. Here’s my reply:
In this time of organizational restructuring, rapid operational-technological
change and economic uncertainty rebuilding trust is definitely a challenging and
not uncommon task. However, all levels of management can take the lead in
this rebuilding process if they follow some basic principles and key strategic
steps. Much of my thinking has been influenced by The Speed of Trust:
The One Thing that Changes Everything, 2006, a book written by Stephen M. R.
Covey, the son of the renowned organizational guru and author, Stephen Covey.
In fact, for the son, the foundation of successful leadership is achieving
results in a way that inspires trust. There’s an atmosphere of
transparency and two-way communication, and employees believe their talents and
efforts are contributing to the present and future success of the company.
A final leadership core practice: leaders take more than their fair share
of blame and give more than their fair share of credit. Or, as was noted
in Speed of Trust: when things go well look out the window; when
things go wrong look in the mirror!
With the above framework, and the assumption that there has been some recent
loss of trust, here are “Seven Strategic Steps for Rebuilding Organizational
1. Hold a Focus Group. One of the best ways to begin a healing
and trust building process is a meeting, or a series of meetings, that allow
people to appropriately share their concerns or vent frustrations about people
or processes that have contributed to a destabilizing or trust-eroding
organizational atmosphere or culture. Of course, you need a skilled and
objective facilitator. When employees see that management doesn’t get
defensive during this exchange and acknowledges broad concerns, participates in
a genuine give and take and, in timely fashion, takes meaningful problem-solving
steps, trust levels begin to rise.
2. Acknowledge “Hidden Agendas.” When possible, “speak the
unspeakable,” that is, bring up the 800 lb. gorilla in the room. Being
transparent doesn’t mean you have to put everything on the table, but certainly
share appropriate information about problematic issues or about what is and is
not in your immediate control, along with what information you do and don’t
have. (These last two issues are particularly salient when there are
rumors about a possible restructuring or downsizing.)
3. Talk Straight and Ask Good Questions. Try to get to the point
without too much digression or over-explanation as this diminishes your
credibility with an audience. When possible do some preparation; precision
of language commands attention. If this is an issue, what keeps you from
talking straight – fear of consequences or being wrong, fear of hurting others,
wanting to be liked, a duplicitous environment, etc.? Conversely, ask good
questions. The essence of a good question: a) humility: “I don’t
have all the answers” and b) openness: “I really would like to hear and
learn from your point of view.” Remember, when a person is communicating
with high emotion, he or she likely still feels misunderstood.
4. Don’t Bad Mouth Others Behind Their Back, Especially Folks No Longer in
the Company. All “behind the back” talk does is fuel employee mistrust:
“What do (or will) people say about me when I’m not around (or when I retire)?”
And if people are talking negatively about a current employee, encourage people
to talk directly with the person; offer to mediate (or to find a mediator) when
5. Don’t Overpromise and Under Deliver; Keep Your Commitments.
As I like to say, beware of being motivated by egoals, that is, when your
goals are driven less by the needs, demands, resources and challenges of a
situation and more by ego and false pride. Remember, as Covey notes, "when
you make a commitment you build hope; when you keep a commitment you build
6. Create a Learning-Trust Building Culture. In addition to
acknowledging a personal mistake in a timely manner, when possible view errors
as less a sign of incompetence and more an indicator of inexperience or some
immaturity, maybe even boldness.
7. Extend Trust. Design rules and procedures for the
overwhelming majority of people you can trust. Grant trust abundantly to
those who’ve earned it; extend conditionally to those earning it, while
examining the situation, the risk potential and the credibility – for Covey, the
competence and character – of those involved for more opportunities to extend
Hopefully, these principles and strategic practices will rejuvenate a climate of
trust in your shop and will help one and all…Practice Safe Stress!
When Dynamic Business Owners Are Also Dysfunctional-Enabling Spouses:
Key Diagnostic Warning Signs
In my work as a phone coach with men and women business owners, I have come
across a familiar pattern: the individual initially requests coaching
services to deal with feelings of burnout regarding running the business.
The individual just can't seem to get fired up or he/she is seriously
considering selling the business. However, within a short period of time,
the balance of our coaching work begins to shift -- less emphasis on the
business as some of the depression begins to lift and energy rebuilds (though
business issues continue to be addressed) and more emphasis on family matters.
I'm thinking of two clients -- one male, one female, both in their
mid-to-late-forties. The male client has two boys who are not quite teens,
while the female has two sons, in their twenties. (Of course, having only
spoken with the business owners I am not getting a full assessment picture.)
What emerges for both families is the corrosive reality of substance abuse.
Both of the business owners have used and on occasion have abused alcohol; the
male business owner has also used and misused recreational drugs. However,
both their spouses have had serious substance abuse issues approaching two
decades -- alcohol for the spouse of the woman and alcohol and marijuana for the
spouse of the male client. His wife occasionally goes into the office,
though she seems to have a disruptive influence on people and operations when
she does. In fact, she has not really worked in years. Both spouses
do have some strengths, that is, the male holds a steady supervisory job at the
US Postal Service; the female spouse is still mostly responsive with her
children regarding everyday organization. And both owners were not aware
of the extent to which the substance abuse problem was weighing on their minds
and bodies and how this family dysfunction was depleting their energy and spirit
for running the business. Also, the abusing spouses have repeatedly
refused to get help for their substance abuse problems. (Also, both have
not as yet followed up on my suggestion of seeing a counselor face-to-face or
attending Al-Anon; both have had unsuccessful previous marital therapy
experience; presently, they want to continue their phone coaching work with me.)
Both business owners have questioned the viability of their marriage:
a) several years ago, the male abusing spouse had an affair and left the house;
when the affair played out and he was having difficulty managing on his own, he
asked his wife to allow him to return, which she did. Alas, not working on
the substance abuse/marital dynamics, the marriage is back to its previous
problematic state, and
b) the male business owner has made some steps to move out, though he has not
truly separated despite currently residing outside the family home. Not
surprisingly, because of his connection and concern for the boys, his own
generalized anxiety, his conflicted ties with his wife, and his emotional
connection to their house, he is frequently at the family home.
What is apparent and what will be the focus of the first part of this essay are
the natural fears and ambivalences around letting go of their familiar yet often
painful adaptation patterns. Both these high achieving individuals --
successful in many ways in one context -- also struggle with codependency issues
in another vital realm. (Not surprisingly, some of the marital
co-dependency issues also get played out in their business relationships, though
usually with less intensity.) The second half will enumerate some
problem-solving steps to overcome the clutches of co-dependency.
Common Signs of Codependency and Family Dysfunction
Basically a person has a co-dependency problem when, despite not having an
active substance abuse issue, he or she either denies the reality or "enables"
-- overtly or covertly downplays, chooses to be ignorant of, encourages or
accepts -- a partner's substance abuse illness and issues. Another
diagnostic indicator of co-dependency is that the non-abusing or enabling spouse
(in our discussion, the respective business owners) despite confidence and
competence in business matters, still have emotional and interpersonal
communication issues. Each has low-self-esteem, a sense of unworthiness
and feelings of abandonment that can be readily triggered in their interaction
with the substance abusing spouse. And these triggered feelings pollute
the clarity of thinking, as well as their communication and conflict
problem-solving responses. The "enabling spouse" will be noted as ES and
the "substance abusing spouse" will be SAS.
Here are "Common Signs of Cognitive-Emotional-Behavioral Conflict,
Codependency and Marital/Family Dysfunction" as displayed in our two
1. Power of Early Memories: Objectively Assessing Old Times.
When assessing the state of their marriage, both business owners tend to
focus on the "good times," even though such good times have rarely been seen for
ten years or more. In particular, the female business owner believes these
memories are all she has. Letting go precipitates a feeling of anxious
2. Power of Recent Memories: Honestly Facing the Pain in the
Present. It's hard to acknowledge how difficult, how little
emotional-romantic-intimate connection there has been for many years. To
acknowledge this means coming face-to-face with the feeling that these last
number of years "have been a waste."
3. House vs. Spouse. In the past ten years or so, each seems to
have had more of a connection with their house, the design, the furnishing, the
upkeep, the pool, etc., than with their spouse. While the house early on
was a place for bonding and partnering, now it's an arena for divisiveness or
separateness, e.g., sleeping in separate rooms. One business owner feels
she does most of the upkeep; the other feels his wife is letting the house go to
seed. Not surprisingly, the fear of losing or having to sell the house
weighs heavily on the business owner when contemplating leaving the marriage.
4. Minimizing the Impact of Substance Abuse. Spouses who are
in long term relationships with a SAS often minimize the impact of the
dysfunctional behavior, not just for themselves but also for the children.
Such labels for "Adult Children of Alcoholics" include the "Over-responsible
One," the Acting Out/Defiant One" and the "Invisible One." And these
children often are susceptible to substance abuse problems themselves.
5. The ES Needs the Approval of the SAS. The painful irony is the
business owners are looking for approval from a spouse who is described as being
"cold" or "disinterested." Both of the business owners can't believe how
unfeeling their SAS can be. (And both do not fully understand how the SAS'
illness contributes to their emotional detachment, disregard or
unresponsiveness.) The male business owner, in particular, feels that
after a contentious or unresponsive sit down with his spouse, his self esteem
goes through the floor. A therapist once suggested that he felt like an
"impostor." My take is that this man in the business realm does have real
strengths and positive self-regard. However, a pattern of being overly
dependent on his mother's judgments and now on his wife's reactions (or lack
thereof) in the heat of marital battle or "be-little" trumps whatever solid
adult self-feeling he has.
6. Dysfunctional Support Systems. Whether it's the male SAS'
drinking buddies at the neighborhood bar or the female SAS' friends and family
members who drink/smoke with her in the house or during social outings, both of
these troubled spouses have support systems that feed their substance abuse
Part II will provide key steps for grappling with enabling tendencies and how to
restore energy and a positive focus to your life even when still living with a
substance abusing spouse. Until then…Practice Safe Stress!
1) Nevada Women, Infants & Children (WIC)
["Creatively Managing Stress and Conflict & Building Team Cooperation Through
Humor" Programs for Las Vegas (160 attendees) and Reno (80), NV Regions]
Sep 3, 2010
Hello Mr. Gorkin,
Once again, if I haven’t already said so, thank you kindly for coming to train
the Nevada WIC program. Your presentation was in fact as engaging, interactive
and insightful as you led me to believe upon our initial conversation. Staff
left your session ‘pumped’ and ready to take what they learned back to their
workplace. Working within the WIC program at the local level can be very taxing
for staff, and we were glad that you were able to give them the tools that they
needed to handle workplace stress effectively!
Health Program Specialist I
Nevada State WIC
3811 W. Charleston Blvd. Ste. 205
Las Vegas, NV 89102
2) 4th Sustainment Brigade
13th Expeditionary Support Command, Ft. Hood, TX
[Predeployment Offsite for 100 Officers, Senior Sergeants and Spouses]
Aug 21, 2010
It was good to hear from you. Work has been chaotic given that I was only in the
office one of the last 10 days before we came to the offsite. Your presentation
was excellent. I was taking copious notes. We have a program within the brigade
geared at enhancing junior leadership comminication skills in caring for
soldiers and helping soldiers increase life skills in five areas of their lives:
personal, professional, relational, spiritual, and financial. Part of that
program is using thought provoking quotes to help leaders present some thought
worthy ideas and to encourage soldiers to consider their possibilities. As we
continue to write the material, I hope to be able to incorporate some of the
things you put out in your class.
As I transition and get settled in my new job sometine in the next week or maybe
month -- it is the army, you know -- I will keep in mind our conversation about
working with the chaplains.
Cell (907) 360-4317
Gov't. Cell (254) 630-3580
By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest;
Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the
bitterest. -- Confucius
3) ASPIRE (Asian Pacific Internal Revenue Employees) National Conference --
[1.25 hr "Inspiring Leadership-Partnership with a Jolt of CPR -- Creativity,
Passion & Risk-Taking" and "Practice Safe Stress" Programs]
Aug 6, 2010
Sorry for responding to you this late. Your workshops were awesome, we
enjoyed them very much. To let you know that the conference committee is
still working hard in collecting the online feedback/evaluation from the
attendees. Once it is completed which might be in early September, I'll
forward the result to you as the inclusion of the testimony you had requested.
I hope this would be ok with you. Thanks and have a great weekend.
Minah B. Goertler
Internal Revenue Agent - Badge # 04-80850
Team 1176 - LMSB HMT - Heavy Manufacturing
N14W24200 Tower Place #202 MS: 4213WKW
Waukesha, WI 53188
Subj: The Economy Is So Bad that...
I got a pre-declined credit card in the mail.
I ordered a burger at McDonald's and the kid behind the counter asked, "Can you
afford fries with that?"
CEO's are now playing miniature golf.
If the bank returns your check marked "Insufficient Funds," you call them
and ask if they meant you or them .
Hot Wheels and Matchbox stocks are trading higher than GM.
A truckload of Americans was caught sneaking into Mexico.
Dick Cheney took his stockbroker hunting.
Motel Six won't leave the light on anymore.
The Mafia is laying off judges.
Exxon-Mobil laid off 25 Congressmen.
Congress says they are looking into this Bernard Madoff scandal. Oh Great!!
The guy who made $50 Billion disappear is being investigated by the people who
made $1.5 Trillion disappear !
I was so depressed last night thinking about the economy, wars, jobs, my
savings, Social Security, retirement funds, etc., I called the Suicide Lifeline.
I got a call center in Pakistan, and when I told them I was suicidal, they got
all excited, and asked if I could drive a truck!
Phone Coaching-Consultation-Counseling with the Stress Doc ™
The recent success of the Busy Women's Retreat has generated a request for phone
coaching-consultation-counseling services; I am working with two clients and am
ready to expand my availability. (See testimonials below.) My expertise is
based on years of experience as a therapist and OD/team building and critical
incident consultant. My coaching is distinctly insightful and uncommonly
empowering. Of course, I continue to do unique keynote speaking and
workshop programs as a "Motivational Humorist."
In general, sessions will be for 30 or 60 minutes. Fees to be determined.
Feel free to pass the announcement on to friends, family and colleagues.
For more info:
Here is a recent coaching testimonial from a woman on the West Coast. (I'm
on the East Coast.):
What growth has occurred since our work several weeks back. I am most
certain you were a gift to me during those months of coaching together. As
I remember, the most memorable character trait to me is your ability to blend
courage and personal understanding; as one who has experienced suffering and
risen to overcome. Only one who has experienced the depth, could so
acutely and masterfully, handle the heart of one suffering, to guide, to point
out, to encourage voice to feelings. Mark, Thank you, for your accurate
assessment, time and again. I am grateful beyond words. I appreciate
your flexibility in time zones and the presence with which you showed up is just
solid. I enjoyed your humor that you inflected with such appropriateness.
It means so much to have had you 'in my corner' through such an ordeal I found
My health has turned for the best and I deeply believe it has all to do with my
state of mind. As Victor Frankl observed over 40 years ago: "Those
who know how close the connection is between the state of mind of a man -- his
courage and hope, or there lack of -- and the state of immunity of his body will
understand that the sudden loss of hope and courage can have a deadly effect."
I am well. I have had several courageous conversations. There is
movement. Don't be surprised if our paths cross again ~ smile.
Terri Cadiente A.C.C.
Associate Certified Coach, Speaker, Stunt woman
Strength And Grace Inc.
25050 Avenue Kearney Suite #109
Valencia, CA 91355
~to inspire courage, provoke action and live from a heart at choice ~my life
Mark Gorkin, MSW, LICSW, "The Stress Doc" ™, a Licensed Clinical Social
Worker, is a one-of-a-kind "Motivational Humorist & Team Communication
Catalyst." The "Doc" is an acclaimed keynote and kickoff speaker known for
his interactive, inspiring and FUN speaking and workshop programs.
The "Stress Doc" is also a team building and organizational development
consultant for a variety of govt. agencies, corporations and non-profits.
And he is AOL's "Online Psychohumorist" ™. Mark is an Adjunct Professor
at Northern VA (NOVA) Community College and currently he is leading "Stress,
Team Building and Humor" programs for the 1st Cavalry and 4th Infantry Divisions
and Brigades, at Ft. Hood, Texas and Ft. Leonard Wood, MO. A former Stress
and Conflict Consultant for the US Postal Service, the Stress Doc is the author
of Practice Safe Stress and of The Four Faces of Anger. See
his award-winning, USA Today Online "HotSite" -- www.stressdoc.com
-- called a "workplace resource" by National Public Radio (NPR). For
more info on the Doc's "Practice Safe Stress" programs or to receive his free
e-newsletter, email email@example.com or call 301-875-2567.
(c) Mark Gorkin 2010
Shrink Rap™ Productions