Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Wicked "Riffed-Off" Satire and "Reorg Rag" Wit and Wisdom: Dealing with Sequestration Blues

With Sequestration in the ether (whether it is a disorienting, dysfunctional, destructive, or a truly devastating virus remains to be seen), I examined previous writings on significant organizational crises and their aftermaths, e.g., the US Postal Service’s major RIF in the ‘90s and the Enron debacle.  Whether the culture is corporate, government, or congressional one discovers a climate of questionable leadership and “clinging to a sinking ship,” if not criminal ship of state.  Diagnostic similarities abound and the rehabilitation strategies “still apply as time goes by.”

Today, however, raiding the Stress Doc Classics vault, I will share a creative “RIF-fed Off” satire and a witty lyric, “The Reorg Rag.” I believe you might enjoy some emotional relief if not a few laughs.

And finally, if the uncertainty and stress is getting you down, consider this haven of relief:

National Stress-Conflict Resolution-Team Building Expert, Psychohumorist ™, Author, and Retreat Facilitator, The Stress Doc™ ( and rustic yet comfy Rivendell Cabins, Franklin, NC, ( ) teaming up for a Busy Women's Retreat, the weekend of May 3-5, 2013. Recharge in the beautiful Smoky Mtns. Develop Stress Resiliency, Set Healthy Relationship Boundaries, Prevent/Recover from Burnout, Design Work-Life Transitioning, Reconnect to Creative Passion. Share great ideas, emotional support, Yoga classes, Relaxation-Visualization exercises. Three rustic and comfortable cabins; also two cabins with hot tubs. Three meals provided. Space is limited. First time great price of $250. For more info, call 828-349-6087 or 800 994 6462.

And for tweeting:

Retreat Expert, the Stress at rustic , Franklin, NC to lead rejuvenating Busy Women’s Retreat, May 3-5, 2013.  Info:  828-349-6087

P.S.  I would like to hear about any impact the Sequestration is having on you personally or organizationally.  Thanks and good luck.


The "Stress Doc's" Seven Highly Effective Strategies
for Reorganizing or Downsizing

(Warning:  This article may be hazardous to the ironically impaired!)

In this era of organizational restructuring or downsizing, or better still, what I call "fright-sizing," the challenge for top management is having the savvy and courage to gut much of your workforce while maintaining survivor productivity and team morale - that "esprit de corpse."  How do you achieve this higher standard of reorganization?

To create a "lean-and-MEAN" working machine requires a visionary management team capable of jolting a downtrodden, demotivated workforce while being "hands on" role models. (In these hypersensitive, politically correct times, just be careful where you place those hands.) Here are your cutting edge commandments.  Go for it!

1. Keep Employees Grateful and Humble. Continuously remind employee survivors they should be thankful to have a job. By not filling those vacant positions there's less competition for eventual promotions. For cynical, insufficiently grateful employees, some cheerfully designed signs - THANK YOU FOR NOT WHINING and BEWARE THE EFFECTS OF SECOND-HAND WHINING - may be displayed around the office.

2. Avoid Negative Feelings through Positive Motivation. Hire a hot shot outplacement team to motivate people to ignore their feelings of betrayal, fear and rage and to generate positive thinking about updating the resume and applying for an out of state position. Reassure vulnerable employees that they probably needed a new learning curve, anyway.

3. Separate the Transitionally Displaced. Create a transition center to sharpen career path focus for the dispirited that no longer have a job, but are still on payroll.  While isolated from company personnel, this center is not a leper colony. (Despite evidence to the contrary, the displaced are not contagious.)

4. Beware the Group "Blame Game." Refuse to have management-employee team building/group grieving sessions; open expression of feelings just makes management the target of "another petty gripe session."

If absolutely necessary, allow a small matrix group to meet sporadically to provide only positive ideas and buy-in for your ever evolving company vision (or is it hallucination?; so often it's such a fine line). In any event, retire the group with gilded, framed team building certificates.

5. Don't Be Predictable. Keep information about the restructuring as vague and inconsistent as possible. In fact, the more disinformation the better. Uncertainty heightens group competition and, hopefully, will disorient your best people and/or intimidate them from leaving.

Simultaneously, rapidly fill some slots of the departed, well-respected managers. People don't need to dwell morbidly on the past. This transition-transfusion provides some new blood, figuratively speaking, hopefully.

6. Instill the Spirit of Overload and Accommodation. Middle managers and supervisors must appear to accept cheerfully all new work assignments, even if their employees are at the breaking point. Low morale, heightened staff tension and anger or stress-induced illness are not sufficient counterindicators to "sucking it up." (Cardiac arrest, however, continues to be grounds for excused leave.)

Remember, a manager, who selflessly takes on an ever-expanding workload without renegotiating priorities and time frames is an icon of company loyalty.  Such a self-sacrificing individual should be awarded two extra sick days.

7. Retreat Reorganizationally from Reality.  Avoid a sustained relationship with a consultant trained in reorganizational crisis, conflict, loss and grief work as this intervention always gets so touchy-feely. (You know what happens.  Folks don’t just draw on each other for emotional support and problem-solving ideas.  Invariably, people start wanting to hug one another. Ugh!)

However, do hire a dynamic, "let it all hang out" group leader who guarantees to resolve all your work-relations problems on a weekend retreat. Still, if you dismiss the retreat approach, there is a safe, effective image enhancing option:  send a couple of key personnel on a 3-day "team building" workshop. Then you can answer "affirmative" if anyone asks whether yours is a team-based operation.

In conclusion, if you or your management team has the courage and foresight to enact one or more of these cutting edge strategies, please let me know. As a reorganizational consultant, I aspire to work with such a visionary, progressively "lean-and-MEAN" upper management team. I understand loneliness at the top. And believe me, you'll need all the help you can get!

Mark Gorkin, MSW, LICSW, "The Stress Doc" ™, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, is an acclaimed keynote and webinar speaker and "Motivational Humorist & Team Communication Catalyst" known for his interactive, inspiring and FUN programs for both government agencies and major corporations.  A training and Critical Incident/Grief Intervention Consultant for the National EAP/Wellness Company, Business Health Services in Baltimore, MD, the Doc is also leading “Stress, Team Building and Humor” programs for various branches of the Armed Services.  Mark is the author of Practice Safe Stress and of The Four Faces of Anger.  See his award-winning, USA Today Online "HotSite" -- -- called a "workplace resource" by National Public Radio (NPR).  For more info on the Doc's programs or to receive his free e-newsletter, email

The Reorg Rag (with apologies to no one)

By Mark Gorkin, LICSW, “The Stress Doc” ™

It can’t happen here, I have too much to do…
Who took my desk and chair, my computer, too?
They can’t replace me; the Branch Techno-file
What do you mean I’m still in denial?

Reorg Rag, Reorg Rag,
Why does it feel I’ve been fragged?
Reorg Rag, Reorg Rag,
Maybe I’m just on a jag.
Reorg Rag, Reorg Rag,
I’m still on the Reorg Rag!

Rejoice, you’re employed…so they’ve frozen your pay
And put on your backs the recovery.
Two free weeks furlough to re-“leave” your stress
What a friend you have in the 112th Congress!

Work’s now a casino, a high tech RIF** RAFFle
When will we know?  Why does management waffle?
Buddha Computah… who’s pink slipping away?
Here’s your ticket to ride; shopping’s good in Bombay.

Reorg Rag, Reorg Rag
Why do I just want to gag?
Reorg Rag, Reorg Rag,
Whatever happened to my swag?
Reorg Rag, Reorg Rag
I’m still on the Reorg Rag!

You’ll “Do more with less,” when “There’s no ‘I’ in team”
So “Dress for Success,” then become “lean-and-Mean.”
Keep reading those posters, your glass is half full
Though, beware “going postal” in the face of this bull.

Ignore the slacker; just take up his load
Put in for a transfer; oops, no off ramp for this road.
The boss is a bully; the “Old Boys” turn an eye
You’re getting an ulcer – such a “nice gal or guy.”

Reorg Rag, Reorg Rag
Why has life become a drag?
Reorg Rag, Reorg Rag
Should I raise that white flag?
Reorg Rag, Reorg Rag
I’m still on the Reorg Rag!

Now you’ve had enough, playing Raggedy Ann
Start calling their bluff; draw a line in the sand.
You are a survivor; just never forget
To bring out your “Inner Rambo or Rambette!”

So “Do know your limits; don’t limit your ‘No’s”
There’s life beyond widgets; you’ve taken their blows.
Break away from the mob, you’ve surpassed your quota
And have won your job…but now in North Dakota!

Reorg Rag, Reorg Rag,
Once again in a trick bag.
Reorg Rag, Reorg Rag,
Back into the old gulag
Reorg Rag, Reorg Rag,
I’m still on the Reorg Rag.
Reorg Rag, Reorg Rag,
Forever on the Reorg Rag!

**RIF = Reduction In Force

© Mark Gorkin  2010
Shrink Rap ™ Productions

Mark Gorkin, MSW, LICSW, "The Stress Doc" ™, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, is an acclaimed keynote and webinar speaker and "Motivational Humorist & Team Communication Catalyst" known for his interactive, inspiring and FUN programs for both government agencies and major corporations.  A training and Critical Incident/Grief Intervention Consultant for the National EAP/Wellness Company, Business Health Services in Baltimore, MD, the Doc is also leading “Stress, Team Building and Humor” programs for various branches of the Armed Services.  Mark is the author of Practice Safe Stress and of The Four Faces of Anger.  See his award-winning, USA Today Online "HotSite" -- -- called a "workplace resource" by National Public Radio (NPR).  For more info on the Doc's programs or to receive his free e-newsletter, email

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Power Napping – Alternative States of Brain Consciousness and Relaxation

A.  Sleep Epidemic Hits Corporate America

1.  Costs of Sleep Deprivation
2.  Not Sleeping, Not Working:  Vital Statistics
3.  Is Sleep for Sissies?
4.  Healthcare Risks and Sleep Training Rewards

B.  Grappling with the Sleep Epidemic:  Value of “Power Napping”

1.  Napping Research and Rewards
2.  Length of Nap and Type of Sleep
3.  How to Nap, Even at Work

A.  Sleep Epidemic Hits Corporate America.  I will paste below Lauren Weber’s recent article, “Go Ahead, Hit the Snooze Button,” The Wall Street Journal, January 23, 2013, in which she states, “one-third of American workers aren't sleeping enough to function at peak levels, and that chronic exhaustion is costing billions of dollars in lost productivity, according to researchers from Harvard Medical School.”

Companies have been slow to grasp the effects of sleep deprivation on productivity, but it is now a hot topic even in hard-driving industries, such as finance, where pulling all-nighters is often viewed as crucial to getting ahead.

1.  Costs of Sleep Deprivation.  Sleep-deprived American workers ultimately cost their employers $63 billion in lost productivity, according to a 2011 Harvard Medical School study.  Managers at a growing number of companies, among them Procter & Gamble Co., and Goldman Sachs Group Inc., are waking up to the problem, investing in programs from sleep-hygiene courses to melatonin-regulating lighting to help employees improve their slumber.

Ø  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 40.6 million American workers, or 30% of the civilian workforce, don't get enough rest.  And the Harvard scientists estimated in 2011 that sleep deprivation costs U.S. companies $63.2 billion in lost productivity per year, mainly because of "presenteeism," people showing up for work but operating at subpar levels.  One example, from a separate team at Singapore Management University: Workers waste an extra 8.4 minutes online—checking email, refreshing the home page, and so on—for every hour of interrupted sleep the previous night.

Managers struggle to motivate exhausted workers.  During busy holiday periods at the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek resort in Avon, Colo., long hours sometimes lead to short fuses among staff.  "You have to try to figure out who's feeling frustrated and help them cut loose to get some rest," said Scott Gubrud, director of sales and marketing at the hotel, which last week began a series of better-sleep initiatives for both employees and guests.

"If we treated machinery like we treat the human body, there would be breakdowns all the time," said James Maas, a former Cornell University psychologist and author of "Sleep for Success."

2.  Not Sleeping, Not Working:  Vital Statistics.

  • 43% of Americans between 13 and 64 say they rarely or never get a good night's sleep on weeknights
  • 60% of Americans say they experience a sleep problem every night or almost every night, such as waking in the night, waking up too early, or feeling un-refreshed when they get up in the morning
  • 61% of Americans say they use a computer at least a few nights a week within an hour of going to bed
  • Americans drink, on average, three 12-ounce caffeinated beverages on a weekday
  • 74% of workers over 30 who report not getting adequate sleep say that sleepiness affects their work
  • 9% of Americans say they are likely to fall asleep at an inappropriate moment, such as during a meeting or while driving
  • 71% of Americans say they have a television in their bedrooms
  • 11% of those with televisions in the bedroom say they keep the TV on all night
  • 39% of Americans say they have a computer in their bedrooms
  • 40.6 million American workers – 30% of the civilian workforce – sleep less than 6 hours per night ("short sleep duration")
  • The problem is particularly acute for night-shift workers: 44% of them sleep less than 6 hours per night, compared with 28.8% of people who work typical daytime hours
  • Workers between the ages of 30 and 64 were more likely to report short sleep duration; workers over 65 were least likely to report short sleep duration
  • Workers with college degrees or more education were least likely to report short sleep duration
  • Segmenting the data industry by industry, workers reported anywhere from 24.1% (other services, except public administration) to 41.6% (mining) incidence of short sleep duration. Some industries relevant to our readership: finance and insurance industry (27.4%); professional, scientific, and technical services (28.2%); and information (28.3%)
  • 23.2% of American workers suffer from insomnia
  • People with insomnia did not report higher levels of absenteeism compared to non-sufferers, but reported significantly higher levels of presenteeism (lower productivity while at work)
  • Workers with insomnia lost an average of 7.8 days of work performance per year due to presenteeism related directly to sleep problems
  • Generalizing to the total U.S. workforce, insomnia costs American companies $63.2 billion
Sources: National Sleep Foundation, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and "Insomnia and the Performance of U.S. Workers," Sleep, 2011

3.  Is Sleep for Sissies?  Mr. Maas, who says he coined the phrase "power nap" 36 years ago, gave a talk about sleep hygiene at Goldman Sachs in 2011 that was so oversubscribed it had to be broadcast via conference call to accommodate the 1,000 or so people who wanted to attend.  He spoke last year at hedge-fund firm D.E. Shaw & Co., which has nap pods sprinkled around its offices.

Yet perceptions linger that sleep is for sissies and loafers, and neither Goldman nor Shaw would comment directly about why they're addressing employees' sleep habits.  A 2012 University of Southern California study of young investment bankers suggests that punishing hours, and resulting sleep deprivation, contributed to physical and emotional ailments within four years on the job.

"People in investment banking have been my main clients for the last few years because they're so exhausted and under so much pressure," said Mr. Maas, adding that bankers usually don't want to hear about how to get more sleep.  Instead, they want tips for performing well on five or six hours' rest.

4.  Healthcare Risks and Sleep Training Rewards.  The risks of fatigue are especially acute in professions like health care and manufacturing, which involve overnight shifts and where a single careless error can put lives in danger.  At Aurora Health Care, the largest hospital system in Wisconsin, more than 2,600 employees in 2012 took a six-week online course for insomnia sufferers after managers surmised that sleep deprivation was likely a problem among its workforce.  The course, one of several health-coaching sessions offered at Aurora and developed by Johnson & Johnson's Wellness & Prevention unit, requires participants to keep a sleep diary, and then makes recommendations based on individual sleep patterns.

Ø  Barb Stollenwork, age 53 and a wellness program coordinator at Aurora, kicked her nightly Tylenol PM habit after finishing the program at the end of 2011.  For years, she said, she woke at 4 a.m., then lay in bed worrying about how she'd function that day.  By changing her behavior—for instance, going to bed later—she began sleeping until her alarm rang at 5:30 a.m.

Based on follow-up surveys that asked about both sleep and work habits, Aurora sees an average of $672 in productivity savings per participant in the insomnia module, said Dr. David Smith, an Aurora vice president.

Ø  Procter & Gamble is talking with sleep expert Nancy Rothstein about creating a multiweek pilot program for two of its plants, one in Belleville, Ontario, that makes Always feminine-hygiene products, and the other in Lima, Ohio, that makes liquid laundry detergents.  Paul DeLuca, North American learning and development manager, said he hopes to have both courses running by June, starting with a group of 15 to 20 workers in Lima and up to 300 in Belleville.

The plants operate day and night, so many employees work unconventional hours, a known risk for poor sleep and overall bad health.  If the program helps workers get better rest, with resulting gains in productivity and concentration, Mr. DeLuca will argue for a broader rollout of the initiative.

P&G brought Ms. Rothstein to its headquarters in Cincinnati last year to give a 50-minute presentation emphasizing, among other things, the importance of shutting off screen devices an hour before bed because the blue light emitted by the screens interferes with production of the sleep hormone melatonin.  That's no easy order in the age of smartphones, laptops and late-night conference calls with the Beijing or London office. "The line between work and what's outside of work is graying," Mr. DeLuca said. 

Ø  At the more extreme end of the intervention scale, some are calling upon Litebook Company Ltd., a Canadian maker of lights that help regulate the body's melatonin levels.  The company, which supplies devices to the Philadelphia Flyers and Ottawa Senators to help athletes cope with jet lag and game schedules, said it is getting calls from corporations interested in making the lights available at workstations and desks.

B.  Grappling with the Sleep Epidemic:  Value of “Power Napping”

1.  Napping Research and Rewards.  We’ve all felt that urge to rest our eyes—just for a minute!—at, oh, 3:30 p.m. on a workday.  And now new research shows that you absolutely should indulge that urge, in the name of productivity, no less.  Actually, I’ve been power napping – 10-20 minutes – since my doctoral studies in the ‘70s, to keep up with all the reading.  But napping is more than just for survival.  Read on. 

Andrei Medvedev, PhD, an assistant professor in the Center for Functional and Molecular Imaging at Georgetown University outfitted 15 participants with caps full of optical fibers (sort of like wearing a high-tech shower cap) and told them to relax and clear their minds for up to eight minutes. 

Medvedev noticed something strange happening:  The right brain exhibited much higher levels of activity.  Why is that weird?  Most of us are right-handed, a trait that corresponds with left-brain dominance.  But during rest, regardless of hand dominance, right brains were by far the most active.  That’s pretty much a complete reversal from how most brains behave during waking life.  The right brain is typically associated with processing imagery as well as with emotional states and holistic or integrative thinking.  (Mandy Oaklander, “How Your Brain Benefits from a Power Nap,” Prevention/Prevention News, Oct 2012; Read more: 

Ø  Naps may protect brain circuits from overuse and help you organize and consolidate newly learned information, according to Robert Stickgold, PhD and director of Harvard’s Center for Sleep and Cognition.  “A brief nap may provide greater alertness for several hours, and can improve attention, concentration, memory, accuracy, and productivity.”  According to some research, longer naps may also help boost memory and enhance creativity.  (Jennifer Soong, “The Secret (and Surprising) Power of Naps,” WebMD Magazine/Health and Balance – Feature, Nov 2011.) 

2.  Length of Nap and Type of Sleep.  The length of your nap and the type of sleep you get help determine the brain-boosting benefits.

a) The 20-minute power nap – sometimes called the “stage 2 nap” (body temperature and heart rate decrease) – is good for alertness and motor learning skills like typing and playing the piano.

b) Slow-wave sleep – napping for approximately 30 to 60 minutes – is good for decision-making skills, such as memorizing vocabulary or recalling directions.

c) Rapid eye movement or REM sleep – usually 60 to 90 minutes of napping, plays a key role in making new connections in the brain and solving creative problems. 

3.  How to Nap, Even at Work.  Need to recharge?  Don't lean on caffeine – a power nap will boost your memory, cognitive skills, creativity, and energy level.  To get the most out of a power snooze, follow these quick tips: 

a. Be consistent and timely.  Keep a regular nap schedule.  Prime napping time falls in the middle of the day; our inner body clocks start to make us feel drowsy between 1 and 4 pm.  Time it right.  The trick to getting the most from your nap involves timing.  “Power naps should be relatively early so it doesn’t interfere with your ability to fall asleep at bedtime,” says Dr. David Neubauer, MD, associate director of the Johns Hopkins Hospital Sleep Disorders Center.  (Holly C. Corbett, “How to Nap at Work,” Prevention, April 2012) 

b. Location, location.  Find a quiet spot or somewhere that feels private so you can relax.  If you’re lucky enough to have your own office, close the door and stick a note on it that says “back in 15 minutes.”  Or you can find a conference room that doesn’t have any meetings scheduled, stretch out in your car, or even put some earplugs in and lay your head on your desk.  (One of those neck pillows that are often used on airplanes makes a nice desk rest.) 

c. Set the scene.  To make dozing off easier and quicker, bring something you associate with sleep to work with you, such as your favorite pillow, fuzzy socks, or a relaxing soundtrack on your iPod.  Also, go dark.  Nap in a dark room or wear an eye mask.  Blocking out light helps you fall asleep faster. 

d. Stay warm.  Stash a blanket nearby to put over you because your body temperature drops while you snooze.

e. Keep it short.  The last thing you want is feeling groggy when you wake up from a long, deep sleep.  Your ideal catnap should be 10 to 20 minutes long; set your cell phone alarm so you don’t OD on zzz’s. 

4.  Naps versus Coffee.  Is taking a catnap better than reaching for a cup of joe? Yes, because caffeine can decrease memory performance.  While feel more wired, you are also prone to making more mistakes. 

5.  Compensatory and Protective Napping.  They make up for insomnia.  Research has found that people who nap for 15 minutes feel more alert and less sleepy, even if they didn’t catch much sleep the previous night.  Research shows that the stress hormone dramatically drops after naptime, especially if you tossed and turned the night before.  Actually, napping regularly may reduce stress and even decrease your risk of heart disease. 

Mark Gorkin, MSW, LICSW, "The Stress Doc" ™, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, is an acclaimed keynote, kickoff and webinar speaker as well as "Motivational Humorist & Team Communication Catalyst" known for his interactive, inspiring, and FUN programs for both government agencies and major corporations.  In addition, the "Doc" is a Team Building and Organizational Development Consultant as well as a Critical Incident/Grief Intervention Expert for Business Health Services, a National EAP/Wellness/OD Company.  He is providing "Stress and Communication,” as well as “Managing Change, Leadership and Team Building" programs for a variety of units at Ft. Hood, Texas and for Army Community Services and Family Advocacy Programs at Ft. Meade, MD and Ft. Belvoir, VA as well as Andrews Air Force Base/Behavioral Medicine Services.

A former Stress and Violence Prevention Consultant for the US Postal Service, the Doc is the author of Practice Safe Stress and of The Four Faces of Anger.  The Stress Doc blog appears in such platforms as,, and MentalHelpNet.  His award-winning, USA Today Online "HotSite" – was called a "workplace resource" by National Public Radio (NPR).  For more info on the Doc's "Practice Safe Stress" programs or to receive his free e-newsletter, email or call 301-875-2567.