On the last track we discussed the Responsibility Factor. The Responsibility Factor is comprised of three main elements. The three main elements of the Responsibility Factor are decision making, early assertiveness training, and specific stresses. This track also identified four specific stresses. The four specific stresses we discussed were stress of anticipation, stress of visibility, stress of success, and stress of failure.
On the next two tracks... we will discuss Type A workaholic Personalities. As you know, certain characteristics of the Type A Personality can be a major contributor to male stress. Five characteristics of the Type A workaholic Personality that we will discuss on this track are competitiveness, impatience, perfectionism, polyphasic behavior, and hostility. As you listen to this track, could it be used as a checklist to see if your male stress client is a Type A Personality?
5 Characteristics of the Type A Personality
Characteristic #1: Competitiveness
First, let’s discuss competitiveness. Open about it or embarrassed by it, the Type A workaholic male is competitive. I find that some are motivated by the thrill of victory while others are trying to avoid the agony of defeat. Some compete actively, making their challenge public. Tyler was a closet competitor, upping his own quotas for himself continually. Some compete all day, in every way—while driving, working, or playing. Some compete selectively, choosing specific battles or special opponents.
Tyler doesn’t describe himself as competitive since he takes orders well and likes being a team player. He is aware of being vigilant of others’ accomplishments, but only, he claims, to prove to himself that he is as good as the next guy—not better. Tyler stated, "Most of my energy, in fact, is spent trying to be as good as the next guy. I don’t know if you can really call it competitive, though." Do you have a workaholic client whose competitive nature leads to stress? On the next track, we’ll discuss how a type A male client can become a type B.
Characteristic #2 Impatience
Next, let’s examine impatience. Do you find that Type A workaholic men hate to wait? My type A clients tend to rather be late, and usually are. Waiting time may mean time for depressing or anxiety-provoking thoughts to intrude. Waiting time may mean money lost. Waiting time may result in feeling demeaned. True Type A workaholics can’t even wait for others to finish speaking, and complete their sentences for them. Sound familiar?
Tyler stated, "I was twenty minutes early for a dental appointment. I felt pretty relaxed and in control. So I figured I had time to pick up a newspaper. While I was in the store, I started browsing for a book, thinking I could read in the waiting room. Then I bought a lottery ticket at the checkout counter and walked to the dentist’s office down the block."
By then, Tyler had used up nineteen minutes and the office building’s elevator was out. Tyler had to walk up six flights, was five minutes late, and had lost his sense of control over his morning. Tyler had, however, avoided waiting for his appointment. Although he was unaware that he hated to wait, he had consistently been late for appointments, tennis games, and car pool for seven years running.
Characteristic #3 Perfectionism
In addition to competitiveness and impatience, a third characteristic of Type A male clients is perfectionism.
Do your male stress clients try to function so well that they need never be criticized? Does he think, ‘Why shouldn’t everyone else try to be perfect also?’ I find that these Type A workaholic men are as much plagued by others’ shortcomings as by their own. Tyler displayed this characteristic as well.
Impatience and competitiveness combined with perfectionism to drive him to perform. Tyler found himself doing tasks on his own at work rather than delegating responsibility in order to make sure the tasks were done right. Even if Tyler did pass a task to another, he monitored its completion with the same energy—if not more—as if he had done it himself.
Tyler was known at his office as the "Memo King." He would give junior account executives assignments and then issue reams of follow-up instructions. He’d schedule more meetings with his assistants than he would if he were handling the client himself. Tyler would also get a headache every day by noon. His assistant claimed he gave himself headaches trying to make sure his clients were spared them. Do you have a workaholic Tyler who combines impatience and competitiveness with perfectionism?
Characteristic #4 Polyphasic Behavior
Fourth, let’s discuss polyphasic behavior. This is perhaps the easiest Type A behavior to spot, and it consists of doubling and tripling up on activities simultaneously. If your client checks his e-mail, sips his coffee, sets up his desk for the day, and takes a telephone call from his first customer all at the same time, then he is definitely a Type A personality.
Not only was Tyler putting extra demands on his concentration, digestion, and energy, but he was depriving himself of opportunities to relax while sipping coffee, or reading his mail, or setting up his desk. A polyphasic suffers from what Dr. Friedman calls "hurry sickness."
For example, although Tyler enjoyed board games, it was weeks since his son had set up the military grid that Tyler had bought for him. Tyler and his son were going to play every night and keep a running score of their strategy points, but every night Tyler would bring case folders to the table with him and find something inside that had to be taken care of immediately by telephone or by a file search in his home office.
Tyler stated, "I’d try to take care of business when it was my son’s turn at the game, but I needed too much briefing every time I returned to continue the play." As you know, Tyler was teaching his son that time together was a waste of his time. But that was clearly not his objective. Does your workaholic client, like Tyler, exhibit polyphasic behavior?
Characteristic #5 Hostility
Of all the Type A behaviors, it’s chronic anger and hostility that research indicates is most dangerous. Tyler’s secret anger drove his blood pressure up, and, the risk of heart attack and stroke with it. For example, males ages eighteen to twenty-six who scored either high or low on a hostility scale were recruited for a study that measured blood pressure while the men tried to solve puzzles.
As you might guess, the more hostile men had significantly higher blood pressure readings and poorer recovery to normal BP than less hostile men. The more hostile men's BP was even higher when the laboratory technicians purposely harassed them. And even boys ages six to eighteen in families that showed a lot of anger, aggression, and conflict were found to have a higher lipid ratio (too much "bad" cholesterol, not enough "good" cholesterol) than boys in more supportive families.
If he feels hostile and cynical, the Type A workaholic man sets up a negative self-fulfilling prophecy for his work and play relationships. He often expects the same competitiveness and impatience that he feels - and therefore gets it.
Trying to Belong
Back to Tyler, who had been at the same job for fifteen years but didn’t count even one of his coworkers as his friend. Tyler stated, "I know that I used to resent being supervised by Frank, and so I’m sure the workers likewise resent being supervised by me now that Frank has retired. And I used to laugh at the new guys when I was still working on the "floor level." So I know the floor workers still laugh."
Does your client, like Tyler, feel self-protective, act aloof, and believe he is being treated like someone who doesn’t belong? Tyler continued, "I don’t want to belong." Tyler found himself angrier each year. Think of your Tyler. How does hostility affect your client’s stress levels?
Changes such as learning to move, talk, and eat at a more moderate pace, as well as behavior modification to reinforce patience and a positive perspective, can lower a client’s risk of a stress related heart attack.
Long-range studies at Mt. Zion Hospital and Medical Center in San Francisco and at Stanford University School of Education now confirm that the stress-related risk of heart problems can be reduced. For example, after almost five years, postcoronary subjects who altered their diets, exercised, and received counseling to reduce their Type A behavior and raise their self-esteem had less than half as many second heart attacks as subjects who received no counseling.
According to study director Dr. Friedman of the Meyer Friedman Institute in San Francisco, and Carl Thorsen of Stanford University, only 12.9 percent of more than 500 cardiac patients in the experimental group had a second heart attack, compared to 21 percent of the group who received diet and exercise advice only, and almost 32 percent of the subjects who dropped out of the study altogether.
On this track we discussed Type A Personalities. Five characteristics of the Type A Personality that we discussed on this track are competitiveness, impatience, perfectionism, polyphasic behavior, and hostility.
On the next track... we’ll look at how to cope with Type A Behavior. However, before playing the next track, could it be helpful to hear this track again? Would playing this track in a session be helpful for one of your clients?
On the next track we will continue to discuss type A personalities. This track will cover three strategies for fostering type B behavior. These three strategies are make physical and mental health a priority, getting to know yourself as you are, and reexamine your sense of time urgency.
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Day, A. L., & Jreige, S. (2002). Examining Type A behavior pattern to explain the relationship between job stressors and psychosocial outcomes. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 7(2), 109–120.
Ganster, D. C., Schaubroeck, J., Sime, W. E., & Mayes, B. T. (1991). The nomological validity of the Type A personality among employed adults. Journal of Applied Psychology, 76(1), 143–168.
van Beek, I., Taris, T. W., & Schaufeli, W. B. (2011). Workaholic and work engaged employees: Dead ringers or worlds apart? Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 16(4), 468–482.
What are five characteristics of the Type A Personality?
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