Challenge Vs. Hindrance Stressors: One is Good, One is Bad

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A friend of mine recently left her sales position with a Fortune 500 company after spending 15 years with them. When I asked her why she left, she told me it was all the stress she was under. I inquired further whether it was the challenge of dealing with customers, the difficulties of closing deals, or having to constantly learn about new products.

None of that, she told me. In fact, she loved that part of her work. The real problems were the shifting priorities, bureaucratic hassles, and her manager who wanted to micromanage her every step. Those issues just sucked all the energy out of her.

New research points out that there is a difference between how different kinds of workplace stressors build or hurt our resilience. “Challenge” stressors are those pressures that are seen as driving us to learn, grow and achieve. Hitting her sales targets, although challenging were exhilarating. “Hindrance” stressors are those kinds of difficulties that that slow down or impede our effectiveness at work. When her firm said that the amount spent on client lunches would be reduced, she rolled her eyes and paid out of pocket.

The data, reported from Macquarie University pointed out that challenge stressors actually build our resilience (what we call “Building Hardiness” in our resilience model) while the hindrance stressors damage resilience (which means people get discouraged and lose faith in their organization) even in a relatively short period of time.

Meaningfulness of our work is consistently considered one of the most important factors in workplace satisfaction. Great managers will want to keep the big picture perspective around how to grow star performers and protect all their staff from senseless business hassles.

© Richard Citrin, All rights reserved, 2017

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