In speaking with a coworker the other day, I commented that I felt myself to constantly be under a cloud of stress. She agreed. She asked me if I had any sense of why that was, other than just the general work environment.
I thought about it a moment, and then stated: "I always feel behind. We have schedules and deadlines and I always feel as if I am not meeting those, so I am always behind. Always being behind means that I am not meeting expectations. Not meeting expectations means I am always at risk of being taken to task. No-one likes to be taken to task. No-one likes to feel bad."
Now mind you, I have a great boss. I have never been yelled at for not accomplishing something (frustratedly spoken to perhaps, but not yelled at). They do not yell at my company. Yet somehow when I mentioned this, my coworker nodded in complete agreement. "That is it" she said.
How did this happen? This seems like a completely self imposed burden - yet judging my coworker's reactions and those of my direct reports when I ask them about something (and I never yell either), this seems to be a common theme at our company.
As I pondered it further, I realized the that what I had stated was the way of it. Schedules and deadlines inherently create the potential for individuals to be behind, especially if there are multiple schedules and deadlines. If someone feels as if they are always going to be missing something, they become discouraged. One begins to constantly look over one's shoulder for the rebuke that one constantly expects as one is constantly behind on something. And when everything is deadline and schedule driven (and the completion of one merely means the start of another), eventually everyone feels like the other shoe is always about to drop.
What is the solution? I do not know. The nature of the schedules and deadlines is not going away. The nature of what we do is not going away.
Maybe, in the end, the solution is for me to go away.