Executive Health: Greater control relates to lower stress

Brain cell(s)

Brain cell(s) (Photo credit: jepoirrier)

Everyone faces stress in every part of their lives. But stress can have different effects on different levels down the hierarchy / chain of command. It is very different when the chief executive says that he is stressed as compared to a junior executive making the same statement. And no matter how great the level of stress or pressure that each faces, the higher up an executive is in the chain of command, the smaller the effects faced.

How is that possible? 

In his recent article in Scientific American, Associate Professor of Psychology Keith Payne from the University of North Carolina shared that it was the amount of control that people had that actually reduced the effects of stress. A junior executive for example, who is at the bottom of “food chain” or in this instance, the “work chain”, is unable to say “no” to what he is given. On the other hand however, the CEO is able to work things around and say “no” to appointments, cancel them at will, ask his secretary to reschedule meetings, etc. It is that level of control that higher level executives have that allows them to relieve them of stress and its associated higher blood pressure, lower immunity, and the stress-related diseases thereof.


The implication for executives to relieve themselves of the effects of stress is to obtain a higher level of status/position in the hierarchy. Alternatively of course, they can remove themselves from the source of stress by removing themselves from the hierarchy; i.e. quitting from the game, if they are not allowed any say in their situation.

It all boils down to control and unless we sense and can exercise control, it will ultimately affect us emotionally, physically and may even result in disease or death in the long term.


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One thought on “Executive Health: Greater control relates to lower stress

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