Is a certain amount of workplace tension a positive? And if so, just how much is needed to create a productive environment?
Those questions occurred to us this week when we came across the results of a poll conducted by Healthy Companies International, a Virginia-based management consultant.
The company asked 500 employees across the country how they’d “describe the tension in (their) workplace.” The results:
- 41% said there’s just the right amount
- 33% there’s almost no tension, and
- 25% said there’s too much tension.
Company spokesman Steven Parker said the study results reveal “most Americans understand that a productive workplace has to have a certain level of tension or energy … having just enough anxiety in the workplace could be the turning point for America to begin to regain its competitive edge.”
A couple thoughts …
Wow. Pretty broad conclusions from a pretty narrow data set, we’d say.
First, let’s take that group that thinks the level of tension is just right (sounds like a weird version of Goldilocks and the Three Bears). How are we to know if their companies are productive and profitable? And just because employees think the tension level’s OK doesn’t mean everybody’s happy and commited to their jobs.
How about that group that says there’s no workplace tension? Mightn’t that be a good thing in, say, an explosives manufacturing plant?
Too much tension? At first glance, that’s got to be bad. But what if those respondents are all lazy slugs, mad because their supervisors are putting pressure on them to perform?
Good, bad, or just a fact of life?
OK, so maybe this isn’t the most informative piece of research we’ve come across this year.
But this tension issue is interesting.
First, we need to better define the term. If “tension” means creative energy and a sense of urgency, then it’s certainly something we’d all like employees to feel.
If “tension” means supervisors using the threat of firing to put ever-increasing pressure on people to perform, it ain’t positive.
And if “tension” is the result of employees’ uncertainty about their futures and the overall economy, it’s simply a fact of work life in 2010.
What’s the level of tension in your company — good and bad? How are you working to change it? Tell us in the Comments section below.