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Stress

15th Nov 2011
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November 15 - I had arranged to see my IT person this morning, following up on yesterday.

He called in sick. He's got stress.

So have I.

And I'm not terribly understanding of stress that comes on when there are questions to answer.

Nor is our sickness policy. All sick pay here is paid by discretion. We usually pay without question. Unless we feel like we're being taken for a ride.

Then we quickly resort to second opinions as well.

And the reality is that stress is a part of life, and without it nothing gets done. 

I now await the flak.....

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Scalloway Castle
By scalloway
15th Nov 2011 23:05

Stress and Pressure

There is a difference betwen stress and pressure. Pressure drives you on to get things done with limited resources. Stress comes when your mind can't cope with it any more.

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By alistair_king
16th Nov 2011 04:28

Maybe this is real

Firstly, he's your IT geek so how confidant are you that he hasn't found his way to this blog and read your comments? Maybe he has been stewing over this for all of last week.

 

Secondly, if he doesn't have formal IT experiance/training maybe some aspects of his job leave him feeling out of his depth. If he is not sure of his position then he may be afraid to look weak or unknowledgable by asking for help/training in these areas.

 

Thirdly, how much attention/support has he received in the past? Does he need mentoring to grow into the management side of his role without being stressed by it?

 

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By DJ
18th Nov 2011 22:55

A dangerous attitude

In WW1 they thought what was then called shell shock (PTSD) didn't exist, and many soldiers suffering from it were executed as cowards.  Now we know differently, PTSD is very real and can first show months or even years after the event that caused it. 

Never underestimate the effects of stress because "stress" is a very similar condition to PTSD and equally serious.  People have committed suicide as a result of stress. More worryingly, for you, there are examples of stressed employees taking a gun to work and shooting colleagues, and their boss. Extreme yes, but it has happened. 

Stress, once it begins to affect someone's ability to function, is no different to any other illness.  Actually, I would describe it more as a injury.  It's a "wound" inflicted by whatever situation caused it. 

Of course, if the employer could and should have foreseen that the employee may be put under intolerable stress, then there are potential health & safety implications too.  

You say that "sick pay is paid by discretion" ?  Another potential minefield. Any employee genuinely ill who is denied sick pay, but who could demonstrate to a tribunal that others in a similar position have been paid sick pay by you, would have a very strong case for compensation, constructive dismissal, bullying in the workplace, the possibilities are endless. 

 

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Replying to Ken of Chester le Street:
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By BKD
19th Nov 2011 10:22

What was it Basil Fawlty said?

DJ wrote:

In WW1 they thought what was then called shell shock (PTSD) didn't exist, and many soldiers suffering from it were executed as cowards.  Now we know differently, PTSD is very real and can first show months or even years after the event that caused it. 

"Don't mention the war!"

It tends to upset people round here   {¦:¬)

 

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Replying to Sciah1984:
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By chatman
23rd Nov 2011 14:28

"Don't mention the war!"

BKD wrote:
"Don't mention the war!"

It tends to upset people round here   {¦:¬)

LOL (or LMAO, if I'm allowed to say that on AWeb)

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Image is of a pin up style woman in a red dress with some of her skirt caught in the filing cabinet. She looks surprised.
By Monsoon
18th Nov 2011 23:20

Lucky
Anyone who doubts the severity of stress is clearly lucky enough to have never experienced the hell that is mental illness. 'Stress' may sound like a cop out, but if it's really not. Last time I was really sick with stress, I was exhausted, drained of energy, felt constantly nauseous and lost my appetite. It lasted for a good couple of months, without abatement.

Even without going so far as to manifest with physical symptoms, mental health issues are real and as genuine as back ache or diabetes.

There is definitely a difference between pressure ('everyday stress') and actual clinical stress, as an illness.

Be very, very grateful that you don't suffer from mental health problems; you are one of the 75%

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By DJ
18th Nov 2011 23:50

An interesting article about what else stress can do

 

Acute Emotional Stress and the Heart

Janet M. Torpy, MD, Writer;

Experiencing emotional or physical stress causes an increase in heart rate, elevation of blood pressure, and release of stress hormones. All these result in a greater workload for the heart, which can be dangerous. Stress can cause a heart attack, sudden cardiac death, heart failure, or arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms) in persons who may not even know they have heart disease. Individuals with congestive heart failure, coronary heart disease, known arrhythmias, or other heart or blood vessel diseases should avoid emotional stress whenever possible and learn to manage the effects of stress. Excessive physical exertion and emotional stress may cause problems in both men and women, but women seem to be particularly susceptible to developing heart problems in the face of emotional stress. Ask your doctor about any limitations on physical activity or vigorous exercise if you have heart disease.

The July 18, 2007, issue of JAMA includes an article about acute emotional stress and its effects on the heart.

 

EFFECTS OF STRESS ON THE HEART

       Increased heart rate

       Increased blood pressure

       Release of catecholamines (stress hormones, including epinephrine, which is also known as adrenaline) from the adrenal glands

       Increased oxygen demand on the body (temporarily higher metabolic rate)

       Lower threshold for abnormal heart rhythms including ventricular tachycardia, ventricular fibrillation, and atrial fibrillation. Electrical instability in the heart makes it easier for these abnormal heart rhythms to occur.

       Spasm of coronary (heart) blood vessels, leading to ischemia (inadequate blood flow to the heart)

 

 

PREVENTING AND MANAGING STRESS

       Avoid situations that you know will cause stress.

        

Sources: American Heart Association; National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

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By ShirleyM
19th Nov 2011 07:40

A sticky one, this!

DJ, would it be possible to avoid all the bold typing with large spacing, please? It does make it more difficult to read (just a request ... not a criticism!).

Genuine stress is very disabling, but as we all know, there are many people who invent stress and use it as an excuse to avoid sticky situations or to 'punish' the boss!

Some bosses do cause a lot of genuine stress among their staff, so look around the office and see if the remainder of your staff appear to be suffering undue stress, too. If everyone looks comfortable then you can be fairly confident that it isn't a workplace, or 'boss' problem. So, could it be that this person is more susceptible to stress?

In the 'egos' thread, I raised the possibility that this guy could be lacking in confidence. If he is, then stress could be a real factor, in that he feels insecure in his role, regardless of his actual skills.

I am not very knowledgeable on HR or associated subjects, but generally, I think staff with problems often benefit from a good (informal) 'heart to heart' chat with the boss, and with someone sympathetic to them alongside to support them, where the boss asks if there is anything they, and the company, can do to help this person. Hopefully, he will open up and any misunderstandings or difficulties can be resolved.

 

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By DJ
19th Nov 2011 10:23

@ShirleyM - Sorry if I stressed you :)

Apologies for the bold type/spacing - I just "cut and pasted" the article and that's how it came out :)

Stress is a serious issue and, unlike broken legs, it is "invisible" but it's effects can be devastating and lifelong. Indeed in some cases they can be life threatening. 

Of course, the governments latest crazy idea is that doctors should not be the ones to sign people off as sick  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-15801515  and that this should be put in the hands of an "independent assessment service"  (Government code for ATOS).

This has to be the most evil suggestion ever to crawl out of the corrupt cesspit known as Westminster.  Instead of GP's and consultants assessing illness (including stress) it is proposed to put it into the hands of the poorly trained staff  of Atos who often hold minimal or no medical qualifications and laughingly claim to be able to assess someone in 20 minutes without any prior knowledge of the persons medical history (they are instructed to disregard GP's notes, consultants reports, etc). 

I foresee a lot of stressed employees being forced to continue to work in situations that caused the stress, and eventually I foresee tragedies such as increases in suicides, and indeed increases in murders, linked to these people. 

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By ShirleyM
19th Nov 2011 11:00

Thanks DJ

... for your apology. Funnily enough, if someone emails me (or I read a post on here) and the text is all bold, big spacing or capitals, I do find it quite threatening in tone at times, but mostly it just makes reading the post quite difficult.

Wow! It's a bit early to making big assumptions about the latest idea, isn't it? As always, it depends on how it is handled and implemented, and we don't know the full proposal yet!

It could be good for everyone. Why do I think this? It would take a lot of pressure off the local GP's. I am sure most GP's would love to have this responsibility taken away, as they are obliged to play safe (to prevent being sued) but unnecessary extended sick leave is costly to the employer, and the country. There will also be the GP's who save their time and money by just giving their patient whatever they ask for.

The legal position always intrigues me. I have heard that a doctor who refuses to give a sick note can be sued if (s)he is wrong and it results in an accident, or a contagious condition being passed on to co-workers. I think this is the main cause of doctors giving sick notes 'on-demand', and them insisting on giving sick notes, even where the 'patient' doesn't want one!

I have also heard that an employer can be sued if they allow a person to work who has a valid sick note, even if it is just being available for consultancy work.

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By DJ
19th Nov 2011 11:20

Assumptions ?

I don't think I'm making "big assumptions"  if Atos are involved.

I have some knowledge of their tactics as we had a client who was unable to walk far or climb stairs due to an injury. He was referred to Atos for an assessment and upon reaching the building was told the assessment was being carried out on the 3rd floor. There was no lift in the building so of course he could not get to the third floor. He was then told that if he did not attend the assessment all benefits would be stopped, placing him in an impossible position.

Quite clearly if he didn't climb three flights of stairs - he lost his benefits.  If he did, he would be assessed as fit - and lose his benefits.  I would describe such actions by Atos as corrupt.   

I think that neatly summarises the ridiculous attitude regularly displayed by them. Certainly a quick trawl of the net reveals thousands of complaints against these people. 

I agree that sickness costs employers, but particularly when the illness is stress, it is often the employer who has caused it by poor working practices, poor training, poor recruitment, and bad working practices, so there is perhaps some poetic justice in that. 

As regards the responsibility placed on GP's, surely that is part and parcel of their job, just as money laundering regulations is a necessary but unwanted & unpaid part of ours. 

I think a doctor, just like an accountant or anyone else, can be sued, but only if it can be shown that their actions fell short of those that would be expected of a professional person.  So unless a doctor makes decisions whether or not to issue a sick note carelessly I doubt he could be sued. 

 

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Replying to Ken of Chester le Street:
By ShirleyM
19th Nov 2011 13:52

Maybe it was the truth, but not the whole truth?

DJ wrote:

I have some knowledge of their tactics as we had a client who was unable to walk far or climb stairs due to an injury. He was referred to Atos for an assessment and upon reaching the building was told the assessment was being carried out on the 3rd floor. There was no lift in the building so of course he could not get to the third floor. He was then told that if he did not attend the assessment all benefits would be stopped, placing him in an impossible position.

Quite clearly if he didn't climb three flights of stairs - he lost his benefits.  If he did, he would be assessed as fit - and lose his benefits.  I would describe such actions by Atos as corrupt.   

You read my mind, Flash! No disrespect to DJ, but you sometimes have to take what people (and newspapers!) say with a pinch of salt. I am sure Atos would have been hauled over the coals by someone if that scenario had really existed, as the facts would have been pretty damning, and it didn't rely upon opinion.

In any case, everyone makes mistakes, and every large business has some idiots on board. One case does not mean it is a typical event. Any ridiculous mistakes such as this (if true) do tend to get a lot of publicity, but that wouldn't mean it is true of everything they do. Are the successes publicised in the same way? Do Atos have a complaint procedure, or is there some other body that handles complaints against them?

 

 

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By Flash Gordon
19th Nov 2011 12:11

Disability rules

I thought there was some legislation that you had to provide appropriate disabled access? (I may be wrong) I can't imagine that Atos would ignore that and hold interviews on a 3rd floor without lift access.... Are you sure you were given the full story? (Not that any of us ever have clients who withhold vital info or anything!!)

I can see the reasoning behind taking it away from doctors because these days they seem to sign anyone off at the drop of a hat just for an easy life. I agree doctors are the ones with the medical knowledge of the patient (though there seems to be a tendency now to not have an allocated doctor and just get whoever is available) but if they're not doing that part of their job properly.......

And unfortunately too many people do claim stress or depression just for a few days off. Winds me up a treat because like Monsoon I've had my share of mental health issues and yet got on with it because of the stigma attached to it.

Everybody is different and what is a walk in the park for one can be the final straw for another. I would have expected a better attitude from The CEO.....

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By DJ
19th Nov 2011 14:06

incontrovertible

I know the building concerned - there is no lift.  I also know the response by Atos as I made the 'phone call on behalf of the client. The facts are incontrovertible.

I cannot see how anyone can properly assess someone in 20 minutes without even reading the GPs notes, AND, claim to be better placed to assess their condition that a hospital consultant (whose oppinions are also ignored).

I understand that Atos are in fact paid a "bonus" for everyone whose benefit claim they reject. That of course is an incentive for acting in an unjust manner.

The people affected by these decisions are, of course, the most vulnerable in society and those least well placed to pursue complaints. court claims, etcetera.

 

 

 

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By ShirleyM
19th Nov 2011 14:39

Absolutely no doubt whatsoever then!

Sue the pants off of them!!!!!!

I am sure some legal bod will work on 'no win no fee', and with evidence like that you can't fail, can you?

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By DJ
19th Nov 2011 23:15

David & Goliath

The problem with suing large companies is that they bury you with paperwork, then rack up huge claims for costs so that losing means bankruptcy.

It's corporate bullying of the "little guy", but they get away with it.

And this brings us back to stress.  Does someone who is already ill really need the additional stress of a 2 year legal battle?

.

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By ShirleyM
20th Nov 2011 07:12

But this is illegal. We have laws for a reason!

Surely you can drum up some interest from a National newspaper or one of the TV programs?

You are not talking about a difference of opinion. You have given an example where the applicant has been placed in a situation where he is unable to attend an assessment, because they failed to provide access for disabled people when interviewing disabled people. 

Come on! Any newspaper would snap your hand off for a story such as this (and probably pay your client for the story). It's far more dramatic, and damning, than anything else I have read about them. Atos could be shamed into acting decently, or at least, would be required to give a public response to explain why they think acting illegally is OK.

However, if you and your client are happy with the end result then you are right, it probably isn't worth any effort on your part.

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Replying to Old Greying Accountant:
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By BKD
20th Nov 2011 11:16

Newspaper material

ShirleyM wrote:

 

Come on! Any newspaper would snap your hand off for a story such as this (and probably pay your client for the story).

I know one newspaper that would do exactly that - The Daily Mail  ;¬)

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By DJ
20th Nov 2011 09:54

A touching, but misplaced belief in how the real world works.

 

Start naming names and the corporate machine would swing into action, digging into the clients background, filming his every move, attemping to brand him a liar - dont believe me? It happens every day, not just Atos but almost every large corporation does it.

Have you ever made a complaint of any kind to your council?  If you have you are on their list of trouble makers.

Try reading "The Silent State: Secrets, Surveillance and the Myth of British Democracy" by Heather Brook - it well researched and accurate, and will open your eyes to what really happens,

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By ShirleyM
20th Nov 2011 11:44

Yes - I have!

I went up against a local bent councillor who abused his position. He got sacked, but then I wasn't the only one he had shafted!

This is as clear cut a case as you could ever hope to find. I fail to see how Atos could cover up this one unless they install some lifts pretty quickly and get everyone to lie about the installation date. National newspapers are not afraid of publishing wrong doings, so long as they are sure of the actual facts, because I am sure they wouldn't want to be sued for libel. Of course ... you may know that this is just hearsay, none of it being provable, and therefore a waste of everyone's time.

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By DJ
20th Nov 2011 12:17

How can it be "hearsay" ?

As I said, I actually made the 'phone call on the client's behalf and they clearly stated that if he did not attend he would be deemed fit to work. I remonstrated with them about him being unable to climb 3 flights of stairs and their response was quite simply "rules is rules" he attends or is deemed fit for work. Crazy, but true.

Yes the client could take it to court, or approach a newspaper, but the stress he would then be subjected to would be intolerable. As I said before large corporations are experts and well practiced at burying those who complain under red tape and paperwork and can (and are) quite ruthless at destroying "the little man" who stands up to them.

 

 

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By ShirleyM
20th Nov 2011 12:58

OK

Atos break the law by not providing disabled access to a place where they are assessing disabled people!!!!!! It is quite laughable that nobody is doing anything about this! Your client need not be named, only the circumstances!

According to these 'rules', your client no longer qualifies for benefits, but if that is less stressful than doing something about Atos breaking the law and swindling him out of his benefits, then it is his choice.

Where there is a will, there is quite often a 'way'.

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By Flash Gordon
20th Nov 2011 13:03

Just the facts ma'am!

National newspapers are not afraid of publishing wrong doings, so long as they are sure of the actual facts, because I am sure they wouldn't want to be sued for libel

That's alright Shirley, facts only apply to the proper papers - the Daily Wail just wants a good headline! The big question DJ is 'can your client do a convincing shocked / traumatised / woe is me pose'? That's essential for Mail coverage ;) Preferably while stood at the bottom of the offending stairs naturally.

I'm sure there are probably legit complainants but the rather more cynical side of me wonders how many complaints are made (up) by people who have correctly had their claims rejected because they're not valid i.e. they're trying it on so they don't have to work. I had a friend who had suffered from various mental health issues and deserved benefits at the start. After a few years she should have been back working but knew exactly what to do and say so that she'd still be cleared for benefits by consultants (not Atos, proper medical people). She admitted to me that she played on it big style. That winds me up so much because it's people who lie that bugger[***] things for everyone else who really need help....

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By DJ
20th Nov 2011 14:04

It's not just Atos -

Going back 20 odd years, my father was made redundant just after his 64th birthday.  No matter what politicians might like to think, the fact is that even then no one was going to employ a 64 year old engineer.

Upon reaching 65 he would become entitled to his state pension, and, to 2 private pensions from his employers and would be quite comfortable.

Exactly 3 weeks before his 65th birthday he was summoned to the local job centre and a kid still too young to shave told him that they were sending him on a compulsary retraining course. Needless to say he declined their kind offer.

This is the level of "intelligence" encountered with anything to do with government, jobsworths who blindly follow "the rules" and lack the intelligence to question whether those rules apply in a particular case.  We often wonder exactly what they were going to retrain him as in the space of 3 weeks. The only job that springs to mind that requires so little training is the job being done by the buffoon who wanted to send him on this pointless course.

We must all have encountered HMRC staff with this same blinkered attitude, and I have no doubt they can be found in any state run enterprise or large company.

Moving back to the original topic - in my experience it is the people who actually care about their work and try to do things right who end up suffering from stress. The "zombies" who simply turn up, blindly follow "the rules" and rarely if ever actually engage their brains, never suffer from stress - but they do cause a lot of stress in others.

 

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By ShirleyM
20th Nov 2011 14:20

I'm out - as the Dragons say!

We can all quote instances of madness with every government department that ever existed, but if these instances were the norm, rather than the exception, then the UK would literally grind to a halt.

I like to keep a balanced view, and I don't feel this thread is offering a balanced view, and instead, extreme examples are being offered as an argument to decry the latest proposals. So as the Dragons say ... I'm out!

 

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By DJ
20th Nov 2011 15:31

It has.
......., then the UK would literally grind to a halt.

 

 

It has.

With the imminent collase of the euro and Germany's apparent attempt to almost take over the EU we are heading into a recession deeper than any seen in living memory, and depression and stress will, I suspect, become the norm rather than the exception.

 

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By Flash Gordon
20th Nov 2011 15:50

Life is what you make of it

I'd have to disagree. I haven't seen any signs that life as we know it has ceased (no hail storms or total eclipses predicted only by one discredited scientist round here alas) so I think it is unlikely that the UK has actually ground to a halt. Maybe in 2012 with the end of the world?

And despite previously having 'suffered' from stress and depression I'm feeling remarkably buoyant right now. Must be the thought of fairy lights, potential snow (I'm hopeful) and the Dolphins game on in 2.25 hours (even though we'll probably lose)...

What's that saying, something about smile and the world smiles (or laughs) with you, be a grumpy old bugger[***] and you're on your own? I think I'll head off to happier topics too. Wait for me Shirley, we can share some positive thoughts :)

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By DJ
20th Nov 2011 18:03

Ignoring it doesnt make it go away.

Flash Gordon

"What's that saying, something about smile and the world smiles (or laughs) with you, be a grumpy old bugger[***] and you're on your own? "

 

 

I think thats also known as Ostrich syndrome, burying your head in the sand.

 

 

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