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Ticking at the Top: Power Costs

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It is commonly said that diehard revolutionaries make poor rulers: they spend so much time learning how to fight the ruler that it becomes their habit and second nature. Once on the seat of power, they feel like fish out of water and completely clueless about their course of action.

This article is not about revolution, but about habits and breaking out of them. When an employee climbs the rungs of organizational hierarchy, he or she does it at great cost and against proven performance. Fighting to get promoted can mire a person in habits that are hard to break and he or she can feel clueless after getting promoted to a position whose job demands are quite different from what the employee has become long used to. The best way to solve this situation is to be prepared beforehand and learn well about the duties and responsibilities of the position where you are targeting to promote yourself.

It's Lonely at the Top

While there is literature a plenty for handling stress on beginner and middle-level jobs, articles dealing with how to deal with the stress at the top are very few. Reason being that the readership is sparse, people at the top have their own ideas of things, and depend more on costly coaches. However, that leaves the middle-level employee outperforming himself or herself to get promoted with very little clue about how to handle situations once that promotion is achieved. The first thing to know is that it's lonely at the top.

Directors and managers often find themselves in isolated positions with very little support to fall back upon for day-to-day decision-making. Being a boss isn't all smooth and happy, because power costs. Everybody expects you to be correct and know what you are doing. Lack of people at the same level with whom you can share responsibility increases the pressure of being accountable and increases stress. And it is difficult and mostly inappropriate to discuss personal problems or work-related problems with subordinate employees who look up to you for solutions. If subordinates perceive that you are shaky, it can lower employee morale and start a vicious cycle.

Act Cool Even If You Don't Feel Like It

The way to tackle pressures at the top usually involves forming confidential peer groups and finding external consultants. Mistakes in behavior or misperception of your acts can create considerable employee stress, thus reducing productivity. It is necessary always to act your part and carry yourself impeccably in public. And that means even within your personal office when any employee is present. Even the most trusted employee can leak information just to gain importance in front of peers. So, acting cool is of primary importance when you are in the seat of power.

Handling the Stress

Being at the top means the health of your organization becomes more dependent upon your physical and mental well-being. There are some well-known principles to reduce stress that can help you to cope with the demands of a new position at the top.
  • Seek and introduce methods and ways of reducing the job load
  • Actively manage your time and reduce time-wasting activities like meetings that needlessly stretch on
  • Set targets for both yourself and your employees that are both realistic as well as challenging
  • Delegate work wherever that is possible without stressing your employees
  • Prioritize and tackle the work dealing first with that which is most important
  • Ask for ideas and opinions of experienced employees on issues without revealing too much information unless necessary
  • Arrange meetings for new projects so that concerned employees are aware about what is expected of them as well as the future course of events
Hopefully, the worst is over within the first few weeks of assuming a new job role and your skills as well as experience come into play to tackle situation. The curious thing is that while every person understands that freshers and new employee need time to settle down, the same people rarely feel that a peer who has been promoted also needs time to settle into his or her new role, and as a result, can be quite unforgiving. The newly promoted employee needs to be aware of this and also needs to be overly cool, well-mannered, and accommodative in the first few weeks before finding his or her feet at the top.
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