Can more friends on Facebook induce stress and anxiety?

Posted July 22nd, 2013 in Articles, Blogs by admin

Many Facebook users spend considerable time and energy collecting hundreds of virtual friends, and posting updates with the intention of increasing positive relationships, raising their self-esteem or living a happier life. At the same time, several studies have shown there can be negative impacts on users including increased stress and anxiety, and narcissism.

With approximately 1 billion users worldwide, there’s no doubt that Facebook is the most powerful social medium of social connection.

The most recent research emphasizing the less desirable outcomes of Facebook activity was conducted by Scottish scientist at Edinburgh Napier University, by lead researcher Dr. Kathy Charles. Her research, concluded among other things:

  • 12% of the users studied said their Facebook site made them anxious;
  • 30% said they felt guilty bout rejecting friend requests;
  • many said they felt pressure to come up with inventive status updates;
  • many did not like the different rules of online etiquette for different friends.

The obvious question arises, then, in reference to this  research, if users felt stress and anxiety why do they keep using Facebook? Dr. Charles contends that the overwhelming majority of participants in her study wanted to use Facebook to keep in contact with friends and not miss out on something important. This generates pressure, Charles argues, keeping users in a state of “neurotic limbo,” similar to gambling—staying in the game waiting for the next good thing to happen.

Not all of the study’s participants were enthusiastic about the benefits of Facebook even though they continued its use. Charles found “those with the most contacts, those who had invested the most time in the site, were the ones most likely to be stressed.”

Charles argues that many users feel anxious or stressed because of Facebook’s intrinsically self-centered structure: “You are almost of mini celebrity and the bigger the audience, the more pressure you feel to produce something about yourself.”

Charles’s research is supported by previous research conducted by Ben Marder at the University of Edinburgh’s Business School. He found the more groups of people in someone’s Facebook friends, the greater to cause offense. In particular, adding employers or parents resulted in the greatest increase in anxiety. Stress arises when a user presents a version  of themselves or specific extreme behaviors on Facebook that is unacceptable to some of their online “friends.” Facebook “used to be like a great party for all your friends where you can dance drink and flirt. But now with your Mom, Dad and Boss there the party becomes an anxious event full of potential landmines,” Marder contends.

Leading VOIP and discount phone call provider Rebel surveyed 1,600 American adults about what effects social networks had on them. No surprisingly, the results showed a classic ‘Can’t live-with-it, can’t-live-without-it” perspective. In comparison to Facebook, respondents felt LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube caused almost no stress.

Does Facebook enhance your self-esteem or does the popular method of connecting with people and “making friends,” actually detract from a strong sense of self and promote narcissistic behavior? There appears to be conflicting perceptions and evidence regarding this question.

A Canadian study at York University, published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, of Facebook users ages 18-25 reviewed the subject’s use of the Facebook as well as the content they posted on their profiles. The subjects were also evaluated using the Narcissism Personality Inventory and measured according to the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale. The researchers looked closely at evidence of the participants “self-promotion” on their Facebook sites. Self-promotion was defined as things such as updating their status every five minutes, frequent posting of pictures of themselves, photos of celebrity look-alikes, and quotes and mottos glorifying themselves. The researchers concluded that the people who used Facebook the most tended to have narcissistic or insecure personalities.

Christopher Carpenter of Western Illinois University conducted a study on narcissism in Facebook, published in Personal and Individual Differences. His study showed grandiose exhibitionism correlated with self-promotion and entitlement/exploitiveness correlated with anti-social behaviors on Facebook.

Laura Buffardi and W. Keith Campbell, researchers from the University of Georgia, conducted research, published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, which supports the Canadian study. “We found that people who are narcissistic use Facebook in a self-promoting way that can identified by others,” Buffardi reports. The researchers found that the number of Facebook friends and the way posts are made on profiles correlates with narcissism. Nearly all young  people today use Facebook and it has become a normal part of social life, says Campbell, but “narcissists are using Facebook the same way they use their other relationships—for self-promotion with an emphasis on quantity over quality.”

Not all the research is critical of the impact of social media nor supportive of the narcissism claim.

A study by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., published in Cyberpsychology Behavior and Social Networking found that viewing and editing your Facebook profile could boost your self-esteem. This research is based on Objective Self-Awareness theory, as reported by Adoree Durayappah, in a Psychology Today article. The theory suggests that people the view the self as both a subject and an object, and that Facebook can be a tool to promote greater self-awareness.

Jeffrey Hancock at Cornell University has published research in the Cyberpsychology Behavior and Social Networking journal which concludes Facebook can have a positive influence on the self-esteem of college students because Facebook by and large, shows a very positive version of ourselves.

So whether frequent use of Facebook causes or is associated with narcissism continues to be debated, but recent studies seem to indicate that heavy use is also associated with increased stress and anxiety levels.




The end of careers as we know them

Posted July 22nd, 2013 in Articles, Blogs by admin

Technology, for the most part, has not allowed us to retire to a life of leisure as predicted decades ago. The current reality is that we may see many people resigned to an extensive period of unemployment or temporary work.

In another article in the Financial Post, I reference a report in Bloomberg Businessweek by Mike Dorning who cites U.S. employment data that is frightening. The portion of all men holding any kind of job in the United States is 63.5%, the lowest figure since 1948. And the lowest levels of unemployment is among young men. Middle-income jobs are disappearing for a wide range of jobs including financial counselors, loan officers, financial analysts, floor traders, traditional portfolio managers, lawyers, architects, and even some cardiac surgeons.

In my Psychology Today article, “The End of Jobs As We Have Known Them,” I argue that the jobless future is already here.  Futurist Jeremy Rifkin contends we are entirely a new phase in history, once characterized by a steady and inevitable decline of jobs. He says the world of work is being polarized into 2 forces: One, an information elite that controls the global economy; and the other, a growing number of displaced workers.

DeFillip and Arthur (1994) define these changes as the creation of the “boundaryless career,” where the career path is defined by the individual’s’ soft and hard skills, not by their formal education or experience.

Today, people need to gain “employability” rather than “secure employment.” To survive in a multi-career employees need to have multiple intelligences, resilience and employability—essentially survival tools. Jobs now are defined by expertise and multiple skills, not just uniform experience. Static job mastery is a liability both for the individual and the organization. Your value as an employee is no longer “I am good at my job,” but “how much demand is there for my skills

Part of the wrenching dilemma of what will happen to careers lies in answering the question—What is work for? To pay the bills? Self-actualization? Status and social position? To sustain a desirable lifestyle?

In his Harvard Business Review article, “Create a Meaningful Life through Meaningful Work,” author Umair Haque writes, Maybe the real depression we’ve got to contend with isn’t merely one of how much economic output we’re generating – but what we’re putting out there and why. Call it a depression of human potential, a tale of human insignificance being willfully squandered.”

Recent studies from research at McKinsey conclude that providing meaningful work to employees was the most important contributing factor to a high level of engagement. In her book, The Progress Principle, author Teresa Amabile reports that of all the events that can deeply engage people in their work, the single most important factor was meaningful work.  According to Ms. Amabile Beyond affecting the well-being of employees, research shows that the ‘inner work lifeaffects the bottom line.           

So do we begin to define work and careers as “inner work,” as well as “outer work?” Where life challenges, self-fulfillment, meaning and social network occupy equal importance. Yet, when you’re unemployed, these considerations seem frivolous.

Whose responsibility is it for an individual’s career? In the past, particularly in North America, it has been the individual’s. Today, we see more progressive organizations are sharing that responsibility, in an effort to retain talent and keep job satisfaction high.

As we go through this huge redefinition of what constitutes a career, both future and current workers would be advised to consider the following advice:

  1.  Realize that the old social contract—employee work in return from employer loyalty and job security– is dead. Even if you work for someone else, think of yourself as an entrepreneur;
  2. Become comfortable with change. It’s likely you’ll be in several careers during your lifetime, sometimes as a result of changes outside your control;
  3. Establish and develop a strong social networks. Connecting with people on an ongoing basis will strengthen your capacity to manage your career;
  4. Create and develop your own personal brand. To be marketable in the workplace, you need more than experience and an education. You are more than your job, and being able to see and promote who you are in totality, makes you more marketable;
  5. Establish and develop your professional reputation. It’s portable, and hugely affected by social media. A positive reputation can make or break individuals or organizations;

The reality is that our traditional notion of a career is obsolete and not likely to return.





















Manage your career before it manages you: 10 tips

Posted July 10th, 2013 in Articles, Blogs by admin

As a leadership trainer and executive coach, I’ve talked to scores of experienced executives and managers about their careers over the two decades. They’ve shared their innermost fears, secrets and hopes for the future with me. A constant theme for both high-performing and high-potential professionals has been the pitfalls and promises of corporate politics and finding the keys to career success. Here are some insights I can share that can shape, advance and revitalize the careers of executives and managers:

  1. Take responsibility for managing your own career. Don’t wait until you’re fired, laid off, burned out or fed up to revitalize your career. Manage your career on an ongoing basis, particularly through the good times. This reflects a belief you should embrace—“take responsibility for everything that happens in your life;”
  2. Every encounter and conversation with someone is an interview. Everyone you talk to judges or evaluate your worth. Make that conversation worth something.  And focus on the other person and not yourself;
  3. Focus on your strengths. Do what you’re best at, and what you have a passion for. Don’t spend an inordinate amount of time trying to make your weaknesses strengths;
  4. Don’t buy into the workaholic hype. Workaholics overachieve at a cost. Typically, they burn out and never recover or they burn out others. Having a balanced life is not antithetical to excellence. Research in fact shows that time off work and rest time improves productivity;
  5. Focus on self-awareness and self-management. Being clear about your values and living them; continually being mindful of your inner state; being aware of your impact on others; and learning how to manage your emotions and thoughts can be the greatest contribution or downfall to career success;
  6. Stop being in love with the sound of your own voice. Develop the discipline to listen more than you talk. Watch how often you use the word “I” when you talk;
  7. Never be unemployed, even for a day. If you get fired, or laid off, volunteer immediately somewhere for something that puts your skills, knowledge and attitude to work. The longer you’re not meaningfully engaged, whether you’re compensated or not, the more this will drain your energy and confidence;
  8. Remember the adage, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Even if you have all the answers, people don’t want to work with you if you continually shove it in their face or show you don’t care about them;
  9. Under promise and over deliver.  The celebrity and professional athlete hype and heroic CEO promises of super achievement have captured the public’s fancy.  Humility and inspiration are a powerful combination that has a bigger long-term impact;

10. Find mentors. Hire a coach, find a wise person to give you counsel, and preferably outside the organization, that will provide that oasis of calm to express your fears, dreams and hopes, and help guide you to the wisest decisions.

The bottom line is that there are no magic potions or formulas for career success. It requires sustained effort, street smarts and insightful strategies, much like the focus of successful organizations.


The Leadership Secrets of the Trappist Monks

Posted July 4th, 2013 in Articles, Blogs by admin

American style capitalism has been criticized for its lack of “heart” or “soul.” Many critics have also pointed to the excessive focus on greed, with little regard for the well-being of employees customers or the environment.

Other than the typical insights of business school gurus or management consultants, are there answers we can look to elsewhere for the malaise that grips our workers and current economic woes? An unlikely source of inspiration for us might be the Trappist monks.

August Turak is a successful entrepreneur, corporate executive and award-winning author who attributes much of his success to living and working with the Trappist monks of Mepkin Abbey in South Carolina for seventeen years. His book, Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks is a stunning eye-opener. He combines vivid personal stories of the monks and himself with business cases from his 30-year business career to provide and inspirational and compelling story.

Turak would argue that capitalism has morphed into a form that has created a dichotomy. On one side—people first, higher purpose, care for the customer—is at odds with the other side: Profit to shareholders, and the rigid adherence to the “bottom line,” and whatever it takes to get there. Seventy-percent of workers are either not engaged in their jobs or hate them, according to the latest Gallup poll? And confidence in our business leaders has reached an all time low. Turak says the principles of service and selflessness transcend that dichotomy and can heal our broken capitalist system.

Turak contends that service and selflessness are at the heart of the 1,500 year old monastic’s remarkable business success. That business success in numerous monasteries around the world—each with diverse products—embraces a form of productive capitalism without compromising its ethical and religious principles.


Turak cites parallel examples of these principles as embraced by other organizations as diverse as the AAA and the U.S. Marines. Turak contends that all consciously transformational organizations have three things in common:

  1. A high overarching mission worthy of being selflessly served;
  2. Personal transformation as part of the mission;
  3. A methodology for bringing the transformation about.

Turak talks about how the monks passionately live their mission every day. Can the same be said of today’s typical American business executives or employees?

The Trappist monks’ business success has been based on an essential part of the 6th Century Rule of St. Benedict: All monasteries must be self-sufficient and self-supporting communities.  Today, can large corporations live by that principle? For example, according to a New York Times report, 48 companies, including Microsoft, Shell, Dow, Prudential and GE, have received more than $100 million in federal and government subsidies. Why can they not be self-sufficient?

Turak outlines several principles that are at the heart of the monks’ business success:

  • The overarching mission must be worth of being served;
  • Selflessness;
  • Service to others;
  • A commitment to excellence;
  • A dedication to the highest ethical standards;
  • Trust;
  • Living the life [walking the talk].

When we consider these principles you could ask, how many businesses live them?

A fundamental component of the monk’s success, Turak argues, is building and sustaining a commitment to community, something beyond self. “The Trappist commitment to mission, individual transformation and the community are all intertwined; these three elements feed back on each other in a virtuous cycle that often produces what we often describe in business as ‘culture.’”

In the end, Turak’s call to transformation and the hero’s journey is powerful. And that transformation will contain some pain before final resolution. But what alternative do we as people and organizations have to the current model of business, which is clearly not working any more? He says: “If we want to introduce the magic of service and selflessness in our secular organizations, we must change the daily experience of the workplace. We need corporate missions every bit as powerful as Mepkin’s [Abbey], and the kind of bottom-up culture that lives this mission every day. Above all, we need the faith to begin, the commitment to continue, the self-knowledge that reveals how much we need others, and the trust that everything will turn out as it should.”

The book is an inspirational, provocative and ground-breaking tour-de-force and should be required reading for business leaders and in business schools. It can also be a valuable resources for business and executive coaches.