Stress in Executives: Discussing the 'Undiscussable'

31 Pages Posted: 20 Oct 2016

See all articles by Caroline Rook

Caroline Rook

University of Reading - Henley Business School

Thomas Hellwig

Independent

Elizabeth Florent-Treacy

Independent

Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries

INSEAD - Entrepreneurship and Family Enterprise

Date Written: October 19, 2016

Abstract

Purpose – Tackling stress is a common challenge for executives but many leaders are reluctant to recognize it, or talk about it. Executive coaches are many times aware of how leaders feel as they work very closely with them. However, they are often not sufficiently equipped to recognise and deal with stress. Hence there is a need for practical guidance in diagnosing hidden signs of stress that can be addressed in coaching.

Approach – This article introduces an interpretative protocol to evaluate senior executive stress, combining a cognitive approach with a psychodynamic focus.

Findings – Based on a literature review on common workplace stress factors and symptoms, we identified five areas of senior executive stress. In a next step, following a psychodynamic, hermeneutic approach, we developed an interpretative protocol that allowed us to evaluate stress in these areas and achieve a delicate balance between flexibility, face validity, and academic rigour. It allows for stress indicators to be detected and interpreted by coach and coachee despite possible self-deception and impression management.

Originality/value – Given its design, this protocol provides professionals with a solid framework and a common language to evaluate stress in senior executives. It can be used to identify key areas of concern and to develop focus points for coaching relationships.

Keywords: Executive Stress, Psychodynamic Lens, Executive Coaching, Taboo

Suggested Citation

Rook, Caroline and Hellwig, Thomas and Florent-Treacy, Elizabeth and Kets de Vries, Manfred F.R., Stress in Executives: Discussing the 'Undiscussable' (October 19, 2016). INSEAD Working Paper No. 2016/74/EFE. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2854952 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2854952

Caroline Rook

University of Reading - Henley Business School ( email )

Greenlands
Henley, RG9 3AU
United Kingdom

Thomas Hellwig

Independent

No Address Available

Elizabeth Florent-Treacy

Independent

No Address Available

Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries (Contact Author)

INSEAD - Entrepreneurship and Family Enterprise ( email )

Fontainebleau Cedex, F-77305
France

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