Managing the stress risks of high fliers
Employers should take more care of over-achievers for the sake of the business
The news that Sir Hector Sants, Barclays’ compliance chief, is taking stress sick leave, only nine months after leaving his job as city regulator at the Financial Services Authority, is a reminder of the risks - frequently disregarded - associated with high performing employees.
It is not uncommon for employers to parachute individuals, recognised for achieving in one area of their work, into a new role in a relatively alien environment. Often it is as much the employee as the employer who expects that there will be a seamless transition and this self-belief simply compounds the demands experienced by the employee. The pressure can quickly then reach boiling point.
These demands are not only felt by those at the top of their profession but also by those starting out in the job market who are making the transition from a hugely successful education and childhood to the claims of the workplace. Moritz Erhardt, a German exchange student, was interning at Bank of America Merill Lynch in London when he died this summer apparently of a seizure. Friends of the intern have said that his death may well have been brought on by exhaustion following his working a 72-hour shift. This young man was reportedly days away from being offered the dream job he had been working such long hours to attain. It was reported that he had previously said on a social networking site, “I have grown up in a family that expected me, in whatever respect, to excel in life. By implication, I felt somehow pressurised.”