I read a very interesting article recently entitled: ‘Don’t let your stressed out boss stress you out’ from the Harvard Business Review.  It’s an extremely well written piece by Annie McKee a senior fellow at the University of Pennsylvania.  The overall premise is that the stress that you are experiencing at work could actually have been caught from YOUR BOSS.

It intrigued me, so I read on and wanted to share some of the insights with you.


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McKee makes a series of valid arguments for why some co-workers can ‘catch’ stress from their boss. She talks about the environment and (I really like this turn of phrase) ‘the contagious nature of emotions’.  In other words, and to quote Jonathan Clark who ran an excellent workshop I was part of yesterday: ‘State Drives State’. People pick-up on the energy of those around them. If you’re in a positive mindset, others will often respond in a similar way and vice a versa. As emotionally-driven human beings, it’s natural that we pick-up and ‘take on’ another’s  emotions which could have a negative affect.


One section really resonated with me – and if you don’t read anything else, read these practical suggestions for how to deal with the pressure and stress that is epidemic in many workplaces:

‘There are a few things we know work for most everyone, such as laughing with coworkers (not at the boss!), doing fun activities outside of work, exercise, friendship, and setting healthy priorities. It’s becoming clear, too, that mindfulness meditation has a profound impact on one’s ability to stay grounded and manage stress. This movement is growing, in part because of the stress we’re all experiencing. Now, well-known mindfulness researcher Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts, Michael Baime at the University of Pennsylvania and others have now led tens of thousands of people through mindfulness based stress reduction programs, in which normal people learn to incorporate breathing and meditation exercises into daily life while increasing their own self-awareness about their stress.’

Mindfulness is a bit of a buzz word at the moment, but that shouldn’t take away the fact that the practice of mindfulness is based on ancient wisdom and I’m delighted that the technique is finding its way into corporate workplace, as corporate workers are amongst the most stressed people.

For more background to mindfulness, please see my blog post explaning.

helen mExercise and a good diet will  also go a long way to ensuring that you are in a positive space at work, and can better deal with your stressy boss. In fact this week we are having the Living Well Week at my workplace, with a host of fitness, educational and practical sessions happening throughout the week. In fact, it was so fabulous starting my Monday morning with a 5k run together with 15 of my colleagues, under the guidance of running coach Helen Maguire  (pictured left) who put us through our paces. I learnt a lot – thanks Helen!

You can find out more information on The RBI Living Well Programme here, and look out for further insights in future posts.

Finally, whilst we’re all coping with so much in our modern lives, managing and channeling stress is very much a personal thing which starts with insight. Please take a few moments right now to find out how stressed you are; and what’s driving your stress. You may be surprised.

How Stressed Are You? Take The Free Quiz

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You can read the full stressed out boss article here , here’s another, quite actionable guide to mindfulness here.