Allan Takes Aim Blog

Cedric and the possible effect of stress

Posted on: 9 March 2011

First published The Chronicle, Tuesday 8 March

Stress has always interested me but it became of special interest as the result of comments made during a recent discussion when someone said the public service was paying billions of dollars in sick pay to many staff who had been absent on stress leave for a long time. A further comment was that although some experts think returning to nature relieves stress in some cases others thought that some anti stress regimes devised by experts made people more stressed.

However, research on the subject failed to produce substantial evidence in support of either argument. Nevertheless the time I spent researching wasn’t entirely wasted because I am now able to advise stress stricken public servants that if their condition is due to their quest for status, it would be inadvisable to join the baboons of the Serengeti Plain.

I make this statement based on research carried out by Robert Evans, a leading Canadian authority on baboons. Indeed. Evans’ research and an earlier study by Canada’s Serengeti Consulting Group, suggests that because human and baboon society have the same hierarchical structure and the same problems, stress stricken public servants will not be cured by joining them.

However, if they took such advice – as did my friend Cedric – and joined the Serengeti baboons they would be taking a risk of exacerbating their stress because they would have to fight for status with cousins they had left behind in the evolutionary race.

And contrary also, to the belief that the humans who suffer most from stress are those at the bottom of the heap the truth is, those most affected are at the top. And to further confound belief, the principal factor in stress is not fear of being sacked or being bawled and being made to look foolish in front of family and friends, the principal factor is fear of being ignored. More important, I offer my research to ambitious public servants to help them avoid stress by using the experience of my friend Cedric as an example of what not to do.

Eighteen months after joining the public service Cedric decided thus: 1. It is an honour to be a public servant. 2. Rather than plod on to pension time, as many seem to do, he would try to climb the promotion ladder. 3. To show how serious were his intentions, he developed his own self-help “I mean business” programme, printed it on slips of paper and placed them at strategic points in his workspace.

In his ‘I mean business” programme Cedric said he would set off early enough to get to work on time and, conscious that in the course of the day he would meet some of his employers (taxpayers) he should shower, shave, dress in a shirt that was clean and ironed, polish his shoes and make sure his trousers were pressed.

Sadly for Cedric, instead of this being the first step on his path to promotion they were the start of his of what was to become a serious stress problem because on day 1 of his “I mean business” program, the secretary of the department passed by Cedric’s workspace.

On previous occasions when the secretary passed Cedric’s workplace he would nod to Cedric. However because his new programme was in operation, Cedric, putting two and two together and making five, thought that when the secretary saw him dressed and looking as if he meant to work, instead of being dressed in usual public service garb, T-shirt, jeans and runners, this would be the start of his climb to success.

Unfortunately for Cedric, he might as well have donned a long blond wig, added appropriate false eyelashes, wore a mini-skirt, low cut blouse and worn high- heeled shoes. Indeed it might have been better for him because when the secretary came again he still ignored him. Worse still, on every visit the secretary continued to ignore him causing Cedric to have nervous breakdown and be sent on sick leave because of stress. 

Finally, if when walking through Civic you are approached by a long haired naked man making baboon sounds and beating his breast, please be kind to him because my friend Cedric won’t harm you.

The Chronicle for Canberra’s best community news. Published every Tuesday.


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