Please Settle Into a Comfy Chair And Take a Load Off While Reading This

The Lloyds Banking Group has been left scrambling in response to a now-extended leave by its chief executive, António Horta-Osório, who has been off the job for a few weeks now. The reasons cited for his absence, the New York Times noted today, are “stress and exhaustion.”

Of course, in modern business parlance, the terms “stress and exhaustion” may be a euphemism for needing a trip to rehab. Yet they can also mean just what they say, as seems the case withHorta-Osório.

The modern workplace is certainly a stressful and exhausting place, as Peter Drucker often noted, and it afflicts employees up and down the line.

With any job that involves repetition, whether it’s on the factory floor, in the field or at a desk, fatigue sets in quickly. “This fatigue is not just boredom, which is psychological; it is genuine physiological fatigue as well,” Drucker pointed out in Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices. “Lactic acid builds up in the muscles, visual acuity goes down, reaction speed slows and becomes erratic. The human being works best at a configuration of operations rather that at a single operation.”

[EXPAND More]When a job is more senior and involves complex decision-making, a different sort of exhaustion often sets in. “The amount, diversity and ambiguity of the information that is beating in on the decision maker have all been increasing so much that the built-in experience reaction that a good manager has cannot handle it,” Drucker observed in Technology, Management, and Society. “He breaks down; and his breakdown will take either of the two forms known to any experimental psychologist. One is withdrawal from reality . . . Or there is a feeling that the universe has become completely irrational so that one decision is as good as any other, resulting in paralysis.”

Drucker believed we were still at an early stage of understanding how to get the most out of ourselves without burning out, but “fatigue studies” had started to shed some light. “We have barely scratched the surface here,” Drucker wrote. “Yet we know already that these studies are leading us to major changes in the theory and design of instruments of measurement and control, and into the redesign of traditional skills, traditional tools and traditional processes.”

How do you fend off “stress and exhaustion” in your working life? [/EXPAND]