The inspiration for this blog post comes from the Seinfeld Episode “The Opposite”.

In “the opposite” Jerry Seinfeld observes that George Constanza’s instincts appear to always be wrong. So it stands to reason that if George were to do the opposite of what comes naturally he will always be right. George’s implementation of this strategy and the results are comedy gold.

Sick time is no laughing matter. Work absence data from Statistics Canada demonstrate the average amount of sick time per employee is greater than 12 days per year. The data also indicate rising rates of absenteeism across all sectors over the last 5 years.

One of the variables that produces illness is anxiety. Higher amounts of anxiety within the system yield greater potential for illness. The human has evolved various relationship patterns to deal with anxiety. These relationship patterns develop within the family of origin but play out within the work place as well. One of the relationship patterns is the development of physical or mental illness.

What if we were to think of strategies the leader could execute to actually increase sick time?  Could we then implement “the opposite” strategy in the work place to manage workplace illness? Lets explore:

External Threats

Leaders should do one of the following to ensure that anxiety generated outside the system has the maximum potential to impact the system:

  1. Ignore all external threats
  2. Treat all external threats as existential crisis

The Opposite Strategy?

External Influences

Team members bring anxiety generated within family and social systems into the workplace.  In order to increase the potential for this anxiety to manifest in symptoms and sick time it is imperative that the leader do one of two things when they become aware of a problem:

  1. Send the employee to the HR department. The personal lives of your employees are none of your business.
  2. Install a couch in your office. Work hard to solve the personal problems your employee is experiencing.

The Opposite Strategy?

Relationship Patterns

Nature evolved several anxiety management patterns. Leaders can maximize the focus of system anxiety into the pattern of physical and mental illness by implementing the following strategies:

  1. Distance: if you see any members of your team starting to become distant ensure to engage with this team member to close the gap. This follows for yourself as well.
  2. Conflict: avoid conflict at all costs. Resolve disagreements with compromise. A happy workforce is healthy workforce.
  3. Projection: ensure that relationship issues in higher levels of the organization are projected from the governance body to successive levels of executives, managers, supervisors and direct reports
  4. Social Illness:  in order to ensure that symptoms develop as either physical or mental, maximizing sick time, ensure that other anxiety binding mechanisms like drinking are avoided at all costs.

The Opposite Strategy?

I will be hosting a zoom chat, free of charge, on Thursday July 9th at 6:00 pm CST (8:00 pm EST) to explore the opposite strategy. To register send an email to [email protected]