Too much, too little, just right: Stress at work, and the Goldilocks Principle — Andrew Yap

Asst. Prof. at INSEAD and former MIT Sloan Lecturer Andy Yap

From WBUR Cognoscenti

Stress used to be a dirty word. Study after study has shown that stress makes workers less productiveless satisfiedless healthy — and, therefore, more likely to call in sick. For many years, the message to managers was simple: Stress causes burnout; avoid it for yourself and for those who work under you at all costs.

Nowadays, however, the message is more complex. A growing body of research indicates that some stress is good for workers. Perhaps more important, studies have found that too little stress can be bad. Stress related to boredom leads employees to engage in counterproductive work behavior, such as spending aimless time on the Internet for non-work reasons, gossiping about colleagues, and taking way too much time completing work assignments.

So: Excessive stress leads to mental exhaustion and poor health, but not enough stress results in boredom and demotivation. What’s a manager to do? The answer lies in the Goldilocks Principle. The optimal level of stress is not too much, not too little, but an amount that’s just right.

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Anjali Sastry's forthcoming book: "Parenting Your Child with Autism"

MIT Sloan Sr. Lecturer Anjali Sastry

My new book,* Parenting Your Child with Autism, is, in many ways, the book I wish I’d received all those years ago when my oldest son was first diagnosed. In the ten years since then, I’ve come to realize that my MIT training in science and management can help parents of children with autism. My co-author, Dr. Blaise Aguirre, and I packed this book with information and advice that we think will help parents choose the right treatments, educational approaches, and developmental goals for their child.

Let’s not sugarcoat this: parenting a child with autism will never be easy. Even with our book in hand, parents will still struggle with making tough choices amid incomplete information, limited funds and time to try new and different things, and not enough sleep.

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