Boss Stress – Or the 5 Characteristics of Chronically Anxious Systems

My posting from a nuclear power discusion group on Linked In:

Kate brought up another critical point – “boss stress.” That’s actually one of the biggest variables in any human system. Edwin Friedman pointed out 5 behavioral characteristics of systems where the leaders are a source of unnecessary stress (they are ramping up the stress in the system, instead of calmly and consistantly dampening it):

Reactivity – People go into fight and flight reactions such as keeping their mouth shut/avoiding the boss (read my book, Fight, Flight, Freeze!)

Herding – People over-identify with their own groups (us vs them) and are more concerned about their rights than their responsibilities

Displaced Blame – People point in every other direction rather than calmly looking at thier own role in what has gone wrong/what could make it better

Quick Fix Mentality – Speaks for itself, although one manifestation is trying to implement too many solutions at the same time

Absence of Non-Anxious Leadership – This is the root cause of all of the above and it replicates itself in a dysfunctional system

For more detail on what to do about these systemic dynamics, read the white paper I have posted on my Linked In profile.

About crosbyod

Crosby & Associates OD is a catalyst for high performance & morale. Our methods are a unique blend grounded in research and decades of experience. In the spirit of Kurt Lewin, the founder of OD, as we partner with you in the present we transfer our methods to you so you are independent in the future. Learn more at
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4 Responses to Boss Stress – Or the 5 Characteristics of Chronically Anxious Systems

  1. Earon Kavanagh says:

    Nice paper, Gil.
    I’m wrapped up in a number of Friedman lectures right now.

  2. Drew H says:

    Gil-would love to read the paper but cannot find you on Linkedin. Can you forward it?

  3. Drew H says:

    Thanks Gil-I see the article in my e-mail-I’ll reflect after reading. Again, many thanks for responding so quickly!

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