Frustration > Stress = Death

“I hear Google isn’t too stressful,” said the first year Yale MBA student, a statement which caused me to swerve wildly during my drive south on US 1. “Um, that’s not true,” I replied, “it’s really high stress but traditionally low frustration.”

It’s always been my belief that it’s not stress which makes a job intolerable, it’s frustration. Especially in technology I’ve got to assume that stress is a given – the markets are moving too quickly, the people are too smart and self-motivated with high expectations, the condensed cycles of entrepreneurism and the impact of luck throws too much asunder. So yeah, Google is an incredibly stressful place.

But frustration is what does you in, not stress. Frustration is being micro-managed, not getting to control your own destiny. Frustration is trying to play an A game with a B team. Frustration is office politics, irrational decisions and not being told the truth.

Google has always been very low frustration – small bits of executive capriciousness but generally you get to sink or swim based upon your own decisions, surrounded by great colleagues. Amazing resources and work environment. A brand that stands for something.

So when you assess what’s killing you at work, ask whether it’s stress or frustration. I’ll bet it’s the latter.

2 thoughts on “Frustration > Stress = Death

  1. Well put. Stress is what happens when you know you’ve got a difficult / important problem to solve and barely enough time to do it. Frustration is when factors beyond your control prevent you from solving it.

  2. Stress is something that happens to you. Stress is the high-strain job. Stress is the being stopped by a policeman for speeding. Frustration is how you feel when you experience that stress. Not everyone who is experiencing a stressful life event or a stressful life situation feels frustration.

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