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The Stress Doc Letter
Cybernotes from the Online Psychohumorist ™


NOV 2005, Sec. I

Fight when you can
Take flight when you must
Flow like a dream
In the Phoenix we trust!

Table of Contents

Section I

Work Q & A:
   System Dysfunction and Employee Resistance to Change
Readers:        Canadian Airline Humour, Men's Socialization, Guy's Rules, Love Story
Heads Up:
      Washington State U., Shrader Funeral Home, Estrin Legal Edu.,   

                       Washington Home & Hospice, Central PA Paralegal Assn, Naval Research  

                       Lab, Natl. Assn of Insurance & Financial Advisors

Section II

Main Essay:
    When an Employee Comes on Too Strong:  Fact or Jealousy?
        Phone Consultation/Coaching and Books

Overview:  Sec. I

1)  Work Q & A:  System Dysfunction and Employee Resistance to Change.  Four intervention strategies are outlined to help employees confront fear and anger around change in management and in higher (and reasonable) performance expectations

Overview:  Sec. II

2)  Main Essay:  When an Employee Comes on Too Strong.  Is the new employee arrogant and a prima donna or are her team members feeling threatened and jealous?  The Stress Doc posits a series of one-on-one interviews, conflict mediation and team intervention to air issues, put the brakes on ostracism and rebuild a sense of team purpose.


Stress Doc Work Q & A:

[Ed. Note:  In slightly edited form, this Q & A was recently published by Workforce Magazine.]

Overcoming Past System Dysfunction and Employee Resistance to Change:
A Four-Step Management Intervention Strategy

Q. : 
I joined our organization seven months ago as a result of restructuring that brought in new management. Now it is my job to win over a disgruntled workforce that has not had raises for five years and feels betrayed by the former management team. We increased salaries between 18% and 23% in January 2005, but this created even more problems: now some individuals are unhappy because others who used to earn less are now earning the same as or more than they are. Until we took the reins, employees were never told that they aren't performing well: they are hearing it for the first time from us. Obviously they resent it, since most have been with the organization more than 20 years and these are the only jobs they know (besides being semi-illiterate).  We also are still struggling to shake off a culture of entitlement. All of this is overwhelming - how and where do we start? How do we begin clearing away the confusion and salvaging relationships with our employees, while also conveying the need to raise performance expectations?

A.  Let me begin by posing a formula for low motivation and morale:  no raises + no genuine and effective performance feedback = low employee energy and high employee entitlement (or, "you've treated me badly so I deserve special compensation or I don't have to be held responsible or accountable").  It's as if all the parties during the previous administration were "content" to cruise and avoid confronting issues of productivity and professionalism.  (Even, maybe especially, folks who are "semi-literate" want to be treated as professionals or craftsmen and to be treated with respect.)

Of course the initial reaction to the new authorities setting limits on system and employee dysfunction is going to be anger and protest, overt as well as passive-aggressive.  And senior employees may be more likely to feel they have the most to lose during transition.  What's a concerned and committed-to-healthy change manager to do?  Consider these four empathic and assertive engaging and rejuvenating OD/team building strategies:

1.  Group Grieving.  Preferably with an outside and, hopefully, objective consultant hold workshops that enable employees to vent their frustrations and fears regarding the new operational procedures, performance expectations and pay status.  (My group discussion and drawing exercise whereby participants discuss and draw symbolic pictures of the sources of stress and conflict allows for venting that is infused with humor and laughter.  The process also generates team and community spirit.  And now there are real issues on the table.

Regarding the former feudal regime, help employees see the connection between no evaluative feedback, no performance standards and no raises.  Hopefully, the recent raises were based on productivity measures.

2.  "Pay for Performance" Connection.  Don't just preach this in mantra-like fashion.  The key to PFP success is good communication between the supervisor and the employee (and between the supervisor and his or her manager).  Employees must begin to believe that the supervisor is there to provide skills, knowledge, tools and guidance for meeting individual, team and organizational goals.  Provide training in setting goals and objectives.  Strengthen the employees' sense of control in this process.  Create a reward system that heightens the connection between individual and team goal setting, performance and payoff.  And now you can confront the wage whiners.

3.  Post-Workshop Follow-up.  Two approaches:
a) After the initial grief and refocusing workshops, create a small matrix advisory task force - a mix of employees, supervisors and managers from different departments - to prioritize problem-solving objectives and strategies along with providing time lines.  Report back to the entire workforce in a timely manner.  Allow the entire organization or departments/divisions to comment on proposed problem-solving recommendations.  Obviously, top management has the final say, but this collaborative process increases the likelihood of employee buy-in.

b) A second ongoing intervention is having monthly meetings involving employees and front-line supervisors with the head of the organization, the plant manager, etc.  The message to employees:  top management wants to hear what's going on in the trenches without a middle or upper management filter.  Over time this back-and-forth sharing can build trust and rebuild morale.  Depending on the size of your company, you may want to rotate employee participation every few months.  I suggest a maximum size of 30-50 people.

4.  Coach, Counsel and Constructively Confront.  Finally, there will be some individuals who will not want to let go of:  a) their resentment, b) sense of entitlement because of past injustices, and/or c) the way things were.  Some will respond to one-on-one coaching; if you have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), some will need a referral to counseling.  (Remember, stress levels and acting out behavior increase during periods of major change and actual or perceived uncertainty.)  Alas, some employees will remain disgruntled despite all your efforts and will adversely impact productivity and morale.  These folks will need to experience some form of disciplinary job action and probation.  And some recalcitrant individuals will need to be terminated.  (Start documenting now!)

This whole process can feel like trying to tame an organizational bronco.  Initially, the ride is rough, and you may be thrown off stride.  But if you hold the reins tight, yet also demonstrate flexibility and effective communication skills, there is a good chance you will start harnessing workforce energy and enhancing productivity while creating a vital partnership for the long ride.  Words and images to help us all…Practice Safe Stress!

Reader's Submissions:

Subj:  Canadian Airline Humour

From:  MDodick

"Thank you for flying West Jet  Express. We hope you enjoyed giving us the business as  much as we enjoyed taking you for a  ride."
Heard on West Jet  Airlines just after a very  hard landing in  Edmonton : The flight attendant came on the intercom and said, "That was quite a bump,  and I know what y'all  are thinking. I'm here to tell you it wasn't the  airline's fault, it wasn't the pilot's fault, it  wasn't the flight attendant's fault, it was the  asphalt."
A plane was taking off from  the Winnipeg Airport. After it reached  a comfortable cruising altitude, the captain made  an announcement over the intercom, "Ladies and  gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. Welcome to  Flight Number 293, nonstop from Winnipeg to Montreal,  The weather ahead is good and, therefore, we should  have a smooth and uneventful flight. Now sit back and  relax... OH, MY GOD!" Silence followed, and after a  few minutes, the captain came back on the intercom and  said, "Ladies and Gentlemen, I am so sorry if I scared  you earlier. While I was talking to you, the flight  attendant accidentally spilled a cup of hot coffee in  my lap. You should see the front of my pants!" A passenger in Coach yelled, "That's nothing. You should  see the back of mine!"

Subj:  Men's Socialization Classes
From:  MDodick




Class 1
How To Fill Up The Ice Cube Trays --- Step by Step, with Slide Presentation.
Meets 4 weeks, Monday and Wednesday for 2 hours beginning at 7:00 PM.

Class 2
The Toilet Paper Roll --- Does It Change Itself?
Round Table Discussion.
Meets 2 weeks, Saturday 12:00 for 2 hours.

Class 3
Is It Possible To Urinate Using The Technique Of Lifting The Seat and
Avoiding The Floor, Walls and Nearby Bathtub? --- Group Practice.
Meets 4 weeks, Saturday 10:00 PM for 2 hours.

Class 4
Fundamental Differences Between The Laundry Hamper and The Floor ---
Pictures and Explanatory Graphics.
Meets Saturdays at 2:00 PM for 3 weeks.

Class 5
After Dinner Dishes --- Can They Levitate and Fly Into The Kitchen Sink?
Examples on Video.
Meets 4 weeks, Tuesday and Thursday for 2 hours beginning
at 7:00 PM

Class 6
Loss Of Identity --- Losing The Remote To Your Significant Other.
Help Line Support and Support Groups.
Meets 4 Weeks, Friday and Sunday 7:00 PM

Class 7
Learning How To Find Things --- Starting With Looking In The Right Places
And Not Turning The House Upside Down While Screaming.
Open Forum.
Monday at 8:00 PM, 2 hours.

Class 8
Health Watch --- Bringing Her Flowers Is Not Harmful To Your Health.
Graphics and Audio Tapes.
Three nights; Monday, Wednesday, Friday at 7:00 PM for 2 hours.

Class 9
Real Men Ask For Directions When Lost --- Real Life Testimonials.
Tuesdays at 6:00 PM Location to be determined.

Class 10
Is It Genetically Impossible To Sit Quietly While She Parallel Parks?
Driving Simulations.
4 weeks, Saturday's noon, 2 hours.

Class 11
Learning to Live --- Basic Differences Between Mother and Wife.
Online Classes and role-playing.
Tuesdays at 7:00 PM, location to be determined

Class 12
How to be the Ideal Shopping Companion
Relaxation Exercises, Meditation and Breathing Techniques.
Meets 4 weeks, Tuesday and Thursday for 2 hours beginning at 7:00 PM.

Class 13
How to Fight Cerebral Atrophy --- Remembering Birthdays, Anniversaries and
Other Important Dates and Calling When You're Going To Be Late.
Cerebral Shock Therapy Sessions and Full Lobotomies Offered.
Three nights; Monday, Wednesday, Friday at 7:00 PM for 2 hours.

Class 14
The Stove/Oven --- What It Is and How It Is Used.
Live Demonstration.
Tuesdays at 6:00 PM, location to be determined.

Upon completion of any of the above courses, diplomas will be issued to the survivors

Subj:  The "Guy's" Rules
From: sue123@twmi.rr.com

At last a guy has taken the time to write this all down.  Finally, the guys' side of the story.

We always hear "the rules" From the female side.
Now here are the rules from the male side.
These are our rules!  Please note.. these are all numbered "1"
1. Men ARE not mind readers.

1. Learn to work the toilet seat.
You're a big girl. If it's up, put it down.
We need it up, you need it down.
You don't hear us complaining about you leaving it down.

1. Sunday sports. It's like the full moon
or the changing of the tides.
Let it be.

1. Shopping is NOT a sport.
And no, we are never going to think of it that way.

1. Crying is blackmail.

1. Ask for what you want.
Let us be clear on this one:
Subtle hints do not work!
Strong hints do not work!
Obvious hints do not work!
Just say it!

1. Yes and No are perfectly Acceptable answers to almost every question.

1. Come to us with a problem only If you want help solving it. That's what we do.
Sympathy is what your girlfriends are for.

1. A headache that lasts for 17 months is a problem. See a doctor.

1. Anything we said 6 months ago is inadmissible in an argument.
In fact, all comments become null and void after 7 Days.

1. If you won't dress like the Victoria's Secret girls, don't Expect us to act like soap opera guys.

1. If you think you're fat, you probably are.
Don't ask us.

1. If something we said can be interpreted two ways and one of the ways makes you sad or angry, we meant the other one

1. You can either ask us to do something
Or tell us how you want it done.
Not both.
If you already know best how to do it, just do it yourself.

1. Whenever possible, Please say whatever you have to say during commercials.

1. Christopher Columbus did NOT need directions and neither do we.

1. ALL men see in only 16 colors, like Windows default settings.
Peach, for example, is a fruit, not! A color. Pumpkin is also a fruit. We have no idea what mauve is.

1. If it itches, it will Be scratched.
We do that.

1. If we ask what is wrong and you say "nothing," We will act like nothing's wrong.
We know you are lying, but it is just not worth the hassle.

1. If you ask a question you don't want an answer to, Expect an answer you don't want to hear.

1. When we have to go somewhere, absolutely anything you wear Is fine...Really.

1. Don't ask us what we're thinking about unless you are prepared to discuss such topics as baseball, the shotgun formation,
or golf.

1. You have enough clothes.

1. You have too many shoes.

1. I am in shape. Round IS a shape!

1. Thank you for reading this.
Yes, I know, I have to sleep on the couch tonight; but did you know men really don't mind that? It's like camping.

Pass this to as many men as you can,
to give them a laugh.

Pass this to as many women as you can,  to give them a bigger laugh.

Subj:  Love Story

From: MDodick

I will seek and find you .

I shall take you to bed and have my way with you .

I will make you ache, shake & sweat until you moan & groan.

I will make you beg for mercy, beg for me to stop.

I will exhaust you to the point that you will be relieved when I'm finished with you.

And, when I am finished, you will be weak for days.

All my love,

The Flu

Heads Up:

Successful Oct and Nov Programs (Email stressdoc@aol.com for references):

1.  Washington State University, Streets and Roads Conference for state supervisors and managers; Half day Managing Anger and Difficult People

2.  Shrader Funeral Home; Half day programs for hospice nurses, social workers, clergy and police:

Oct. 22, 2005

Greetings Kristi & Jessica!
(Eagles Talent Connection, Inc., Event Coordinators)

I just wanted to drop you a line to let you know how pleased we were with the seminars presented by Mark Gorkin.  He was magical with the morning group of hospice and clergy attendees.  I saw and heard the loudest and most sincere laughter I have ever heard from some of the most serious and staid church pastors I know.  He is to be commended for his efforts, and I would be glad to recommend him to any organization considering using him in the future.

Dan Heaman
Funeral Director
Schrader Funeral Home


3.  Estrin Legal Education; Kickoff programs for Atlanta and Eureka Springs, Ark. conferences

4.  Washington Home & Hospice; Half day Managing Stress, Team-Building & Humor

5.  Central PA Paralegal Assn; Half day Managing Stress, Team-Building & Humor

Mark - Just a follow up note to tell you again that I thoroughly enjoyed your presentation today.  I must admit that I was reluctant to take time out of my busy schedule to deal with stress, only to understand how important I needed this "medicine" to improve my focus and outlook.  The motivational humor was the creative approach that I needed to relax and the opportunity to open my ears to hear common struggles, and more important, suggested solutions. 

Also, as I departed the parking lot of the conference center, I read a quote on a bulletin board across the street that said so little, but yet so much:  "He who angers you, controls you".  Thought I'd share this quote with you in case you didn't see it …. or let you know that "your message" on that board was most appropriate for us to see after the presentation.

Thanks again and best wishes!

Kathleen S. Purcell
Senior Legal Assistant
The Hershey Company

6. ITT Contractors at Naval Research Lab; One-hour Time Management brown bag:

The brown bag yesterday at the Naval Research Lab went very well. We had 17 people in attendance. The presenter Mark Gorkin did a great job. I received very positive feedback. A few people wished we had more time. Mark was a very energetic presenter, he encouraged participation. He is known as the Stress Doc so he has a lot of knowledge on the topic of Time Mgmt. He was able to provide us with a lot more information than what was on the slides. He gave us valuable tips.


Wynell Marandure
Human Resources Representative

ITT Industries
Advanced Engineering & Sciences
45145 Research Place
Ashburn, VA 20147

(703) 858-4048

7. Natl. Assn. of Insurance & Financial Advisors; 1 1/2 hour Stress & Team Building:

National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors (NAIFA)

2901 Telestar Court
PO Box 12012
Falls Church, VA  22042-1205

November 3, 2005

Dear Mark:

On behalf of NAIFA, I wanted to personally thank you for your presentation yesterday.  It was both well attended and well received.  Many of our staff came to me throughout the day to tell how much fun they had and how valuable the session was.  Everyone appeared fully engaged, from our CEO down to our newest staff members.

Even though this was the second time within a year that I personally participated in your program [the first time was at a Human Resources Association-National Capital Area (HRA-NCA) keynote for 250] , it felt invigorating and refreshing.  We have many upcoming events and projects that are going to require the cooperation of several departments working together and this session has given our employees insight and helpful tools toward achieving goals using team-building techniques.

Very truly yours,

Steven C. Siesser
Vice President, Finance & Human Resourcesz

Mark Gorkin, LICSW, "The Stress Doc" ™,
is a psychotherapist and "Motivational Humorist" whose Interactive Keynotes and Kickoffs draw wide and "amazing" acclaim - from Fortune 100s and Federal Agencies to around the world with Celebrity Cruise Lines.   An OD/Team Building Consultant, Mark is the author of Practice Safe Stress:  Healing and Laughing in the Face of Stress, Burnout & Depression and of The Four Faces of Anger: Transforming Anger, Rage, and Conflict Into Inspiring Attitude and Behavior.  Also, the Doc is AOL's "Online Psychohumorist" ™ running his weekly "Shrink Rap ™ and Group Chat."  See his award winning, USA Today Online "HotSite" -- www.stressdoc.com (cited as a workplace resource by National Public Radio (NPR).  Finally, Mark is an advisor to The Bright Side ™ -- www.the-bright-side.org -- a multi-award winning mental health resource.  Email for his monthly newsletter showcased on List-a-Day.com.  For more info on the Doc's speaking and training programs and products, email stressdoc@aol.com or call 301-946-0865.

(c)  Mark Gorkin  2005
Shrink Rap Productions


Mark Gorkin
"The Stress Doc" (TM)

DC's, the Nation's and the Internet's
"Motivational Psychohumorist" (TM)

Interactive and Inspiring Keynotes & Kickoffs