Creating the conditions for growth at work

By Elisabeth Goodman, 16th February 2016

It’s performance review and appraisal time

It’s that time of year again: performance appraisals were either completed just before the end of 2015, or are in full swing. Objectives are being set for the year ahead. Managers and those being managed may be feeling ‘stressed’ by the challenge of finding the time or the skills to do it properly: to ensure that people are feeling valued and/or fulfilled in their work. Performance review time is surely the time to ensure that the conditions are right for the growth of the individual, the team, and the organisation.

Creating the right conditions for growth
Creating the right conditions for growth

Is stress getting in the way of growth?

My attention was caught this week-end by the cover story in The Observer’s New Review “Is there too much stress on stress?” (14th Feb 2016, pp. 8-11). I was fascinated to learn that the term ‘stress’ was coined as recently as 1946 by Hans Selye, an Austrian-Canadian endocrinologist, who was intrigued by the common symptoms experienced by humans to all sorts of diseases and “diverse noxious agents”. The Observer article quotes statistics from the 2015 “WorkStress” annual conference of the UK National Work-Stress Network. Apparently there were 440,000 cases of work-related stress in the UK, and 43% of all working days lost due to illness in 2014/15 were due to stress. And these are just the reported cases.

I remember when I was an employee, before I started running my own business, hearing about the difference between ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ stress. The argument went that we needed enough positive stress to ensure that we were achieving our potential. Apparently Selye also referred to ‘good stress’ or “eustress”, and ‘bad stress’ or “distress” but the article suggests that this distinction never really caught on. I am no physiological or psychological expert, but I know, from discussing motivation with delegates in our RiverRhee management training courses, and from my own experiences, that not enough of the right kind of challenge, as well as too much of the wrong kind of challenge can lead to dissatisfaction and unhappiness, and other symptoms of stress.

Motivators and demotivators

I’m currently reading Caitlin Walker’s “From contempt to curiosity” in my exploration of ‘clean language’ as a tool for creating exceptional managers and teams. She references the ‘triune brain’ from Eric Jensen’s “Brain-Based Teaching and Learning”. It’s a reminder that our reptilian brain origins are those for which physiological safety is important. Our mammalian brain thrives on social belonging. The neocortex is the focus for cognitive thought: our centre for creativity and learning. There are echoes of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs here: only if we feel safe, secure, accepted and trusted can we free up our brains to grow as an individual and so benefit the team and the organisation.

the major contributors to stress

Back to the Observer article, which suggests that the contributors to stress at work include:

  • emails – too many, too frequently and intruding into home life
  • level of demand on people’s time / long hours
  • reduction in personal control over work
  • poor relationships
  • lack of clarity of roles and responsibilities
  • inability to adapt to change
  • generally insensitive management practices

managers as role models

Again, back to our management training where we put a lot of emphasis on skills to understand and support individuals within their teams, as well as role modelling working practices to better manage their time.

Managers also have a responsibility to see that change is initiated and implemented in a way that addresses our basic need for information and involvement, so that we feel better able to cope. (More tips on the RiverRhee Managing Change page.)

Performance appraisals are an ideal opportunity to review and nurture the conditions in which every individual, team and the organisation as a whole can reduce (negative) stress and focus on thriving and growth.

What will you do to create these ideal conditions?


Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that helps business teams and their managers to enhance their effectiveness for greater productivity and improved team morale. (We use coaching, training, facilitation, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis. 

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  

She is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals) and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she leads the Internal Collaboration theme of the Enabling Change SIG committee.

2 thoughts on “Creating the conditions for growth at work”

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