July 10, 2018



In the space of a month, two of Thembi’s nephews talked to her about their work-load, how to meet expectations and then lastly, what can one do to fall asleep at night? Thembi looked at these two young aspiring men of the future and her heart went out to them. They are suffering from stress, and are asking for help to develop the skills to cope in our modern era.

It is an age-old problem: what do we do if the business is starting to fail? We cut costs, or we grow the business. Cutting costs is under our control. Reducing head count is an obvious choice as payroll is always one of the highest, if not the highest cost, in most companies. It is no secret that employees are required to do more with fewer resources today.

The analogy with professional sportsmen and women is useful here. How does one break the record set by someone else who was on steroids? Is it even possible to compete professionally if you are not prepared to bend the rules, to punish your body, to go to extra-ordinary lengths to push yourself to what is possibly not even humanly possible?

Is this what is happening in business these last few decades? Because the need to show growth and return on investment is so fundamentally embedded into the organisations ability to access funding, and that at a favourable rate, managers are under pressure. Today’s managers have to be willing to bend the rules, to set punishing goals for self and the team, to pressurize everyone to go to extra-ordinary lengths to push towards what is possibly not even humanly possible.

In both cases how do we imagine this cycle is going to be broken? Who is going to stand up and compete in sport without taking any drugs, when the outcome is probably that they will not even be seen? What CEO is going to employ more people and increase his payroll overhead so that his staff can do less work? These ideas are unimaginable.

Yet, results of research indicate that there is a way out, at least for business. The research Shirom conducted in 2005 on vigour in the context of organisations, indicated that there is a strong relationship between the organisation and the individual employee’s vigour. According to Shirom the organisation impacts on the individual’s vigour and this in turn impacts on various factors in the organisation, including the individual’s performance and ultimately therefore on organisational effectiveness. How does Shirom define vigour? His approach was different to most researchers at the time, in that he believes vigour comprises not only of physical strength, but also has personal resources interwoven with physical strength, such as emotional energy and cognitive liveliness.

In more recent years, research conducted by Louw in 2014 using Shirom’s model of vigour, showed that vigour was affected by emotional stability, citing the important role played by others in providing support to the individual. According to Shirom, vigour is a work-related ongoing emotional experience that results from the individual’s evaluation of their job and the working environment, and what these mean to the individual. Vigour may therefore be considered as an indicator of optimal psychological functioning, and more importantly, of management effectiveness. How well are your employees doing?

What kind of a work place could we build if we focussed on the vigour of our employees? How much more productive would they be if they were functioning in an environment that offered emotional stability? How could this potentially impact on the balance sheet?

This article has been kindly sponsored by Goldfish Consulting

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