Work Stress and the Type A Behavior Pattern

By: Jeff Lugerner

We have seen a disturbing pattern in our coaching practice over the past 2 years of people in their 30’s and 40’s becoming seriously ill. Everything from heart attacks, cancer diagnoses, auto immune diseases, chronic migraine headaches, etc.

Generically what we’ve witnessed are people who have been under chronic stress with no let up for a period of several years. Specifically what we are very clear about is that the people who have become sick are very much engaged in the Type A behavior pattern(TABP).

Clinical research that has been replicated from all over the globe tells us that there is a correlation between this behavior pattern and the early onset of coronary artery disease. There are two pieces of good news here, not all Type A’s get coronary artery disease and this is a behavior pattern that can be changed. Twenty years ago I led Type A behavioral change research groups for Meyer Friedman, the research cardiologist who co-founded the behavior pattern. During that time we saw many people change the behavior pattern and ultimately have even more work success and a better quality of life.

So the big question here is, are you or those around you chronically engaged in this behavior pattern? Let me share with you a few of the major components and then ask some diagnostic questions.

Major Components of the Type A Behavior Pattern

1. Chronic Sense of Time Urgency – you are always in a hurry even when it is not necessary, consistently racing against the clock, struggling to do more and more in less time.

2. Indiscriminate Competitiveness – you make everything a competition, at work, on the highway and certainly any sports or games you may play.

3. Compulsive Achievement Striving – what you achieve is never good enough and you are constantly striving to achieve more and more…..YOU LIVE HERE!

Are You Type A?

1. As you read this post were you hurrying through it and/or doing something else at the same time?

2. Do you become easily irritated waiting in lines or when stuck in traffic?

3. Do you become easily irritated or aggravated if things don’t go as you think they should?

4. Do you react with agitation over the trivial mistakes of others.

If some of these Type A components seem familiar to you and you answered yes to 2-3 of the questions then you are probably pretty engaged in this behavior pattern in a significant way.

Many men in particular have expressed to us that they are Type A and wear it as a badge of honor in the workplace. They also believe that it is the reason they are successful. What we have seen over the course of 15 years of coaching executives is that this behavior pattern frequently becomes a derailer as they move up in an organization. In essence what was once tolerated and rewarded is now seen as unacceptable at the executive level.

This post will be the first in a series of posts on this topic. We’ll look at how this behavior pattern shows up at work and at home and what you can do to change.

  1. Corinna Frattini Comment By : Corinna Frattini

    This is such a critical issue at both the individual and societal level. Pleased to see that you are addressing it.

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