Stress: From Tolerable to Toxic

A new Korn Ferry report reveals how people and organizations can work together to find the sweet spot of stress.


Amelia Haynes

Associate Researcher, Korn Ferry Institute

Stress is defined as a physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension. But stress hardly needs an introduction. We see it, we feel it, and we know it—in our sleep, our appetites, our work.  

If stress could speak for itself, though, it might argue that it has been the victim of a character assassination; villainization by oversimplification. In fact, it would argue, the right amount of stress challenges us to be better. 

Stress gets a bad rap—for many good reasons. The consequences can be pervasive and pernicious; you might even notice, as you read this, that you are gritting your teeth and clenching your shoulders. But stress is not always a bad thing, nor is it always about our “feelings.”  

There is a space between “too much” and “not enough” where stress can make us excellent. And by understanding the spectrum of stress, and how our bodies bear the burden of the extremes, we consider the ways that people and organizations can work together to find the sweet spot. 

In our latest report, Stress: From Tolerable to Toxic, the Korn Ferry Institute looks at how we can combat toxic stress through small achievable strategies. A practice as simple as making space for connection can go a long way in toward reducing allostatic load—in turn, improving our physical and mental wellbeing. And only when we find our way back to that sweet spot of stress, we will see our performance improve. 

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