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Stress in the workplace

Peter Barron | 12:05 UK time, Friday, 25 August 2006

Earlier this week the BBC in-house mag e-mailed me to see if we could help with an item they’re doing about stress in the workplace.

Newsnight logoI couldn’t think of much to say. Obviously Newsnight has its moments, but generally it’s not a particularly stressy environment – not like air traffic control or A&E or 24-hour news. And then Wednesday happened.

We had a much sought-after interview with the Monarch Two, the two Asian lads from Manchester thrown off a holiday flight for freaking out the passengers. The Daily Mirror got the scoop and for some reason offered the only TV interviews to ITV News and Newsnight.

So there was quite a lot riding on it. When at 8.30pm – two hours before we go on air – our producer called from Manchester to say that not a single frame of the interview they’d recorded was usable because of a tape fault, our motormouth programme editor Jasmin simply responded “I don’t know what to say”, and my long dormant IBS started to play up.

Incredibly, we managed to persuade the boys to re-do the interview and with superhuman assistance from the BBC’s Northern bureau got a satellite truck to their hotel to do an as-live interview just in time for the programme at 10.30. I bet no viewer spotted our close shave with televisual death, but yes that was stressful.

I’m writing this in Edinburgh, where I’m undergoing a different type of stress. Months ago I agreed – who knows why – to take part in a special TV Festival edition of Stars in their Eyes. Obviously the protocols of the show forbid me from saying who I’m going to be, but the process is not without anxiety.

On holiday earlier in the summer - a particularly stress-free time – I was reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink, and his theory goes that when people are put in situations of intense stress they become momentarily autistic. That, he reckons, explains why policemen occasionally shoot innocent people.

Not sure about autistic, but clumsy certainly. It’s apparently to do with the blood rushing to your core and thus leaving your fingers. So when, in rehearsal, the host Vernon Kay declared – hypothetically – that I had won the event, my victory salute caught him sharply in the groin.

These are the stresses we have to endure.


Stress in the Workplace is Worldwide.

  • 2.
  • At 02:34 PM on 25 Aug 2006,
  • Shelina Khalfan wrote:

Dear Mr Barron

(not so) dormant IBS, victory salute or stress or otherwise : I thoroughly enjoy reading your articles.

Chuckles galore, immense between the lines truth.

Keep them coming !!!


  • 3.
  • At 02:46 PM on 25 Aug 2006,
  • JennyM wrote:

Excellent interview and structure - as always. When will we get to see your Stars in their Eyes debut....?

  • 4.
  • At 02:59 PM on 25 Aug 2006,
  • Dave wrote:

Dude, I get IBS when I get stress too.

  • 5.
  • At 03:39 PM on 25 Aug 2006,
  • Dr sibani Roy wrote:

Only one thing I can suggest that people those who stress out at work places should take a 15 mins break and meditate.

For more browse

  • 6.
  • At 03:40 PM on 25 Aug 2006,
  • Ozoda Muminova wrote:

Stress in the workplace occurs when you are faced with unreasonable expectations: either to do too much or too little. It is unfortunate that human body is mainly programmed to react to physical stressed, preparing us to 'fight, flight or freeze' - which are not very helpful in the majority of modern stresses, which are mental. How does becoming 'autistic' help you with dealing with a tight deadline?

  • 7.
  • At 03:49 PM on 25 Aug 2006,
  • Peter Walker wrote:

Glad to know about the tape fault on the Monarch two interview. It still doesn't excuse an inept piece of television journalism with no attempt made to identify why the pair had no luggage, what they were studying. Why did no-one track down the family of the tantrum ridden 12 year old.
Someone should also have explained that it was easier to off load twopassengers without luggage than any with luggage it does put the pilot's dilema in perspective

If you are happy that the Daily Mirror sees Newsnight as its TV equivalent fine. I am not sure your viewers do.. but there's always Panorama.

  • 8.
  • At 04:03 PM on 25 Aug 2006,
  • Anne wrote:

These problems are exactly why I gave up on television broadcasting at a career.
I once was studying media/broadcasting in college and doing some intern work with a local station. The stress and a number of other things (like the way the media decended like vultures on a family whose son was being investigated for arson) made me realize this was NOT the career for me.
Maybe you could do a show on health problems related to TV news producers?

  • 9.
  • At 04:20 PM on 25 Aug 2006,
  • Noel Dobson wrote:

Although at the time it must have been very annoying for two innocent people to be suspected of being possible terrorists it is the best thing that could have happened and I certainly hope that simmilar incidents happen again until the peaceful Asian community realise that they cannot sit back and consider that this is not their problem. When we are all actively against terrorism the would be terrorists will find it more difficult to operate. No one can sit on the fence which is what many Muslims have been doing. I don't like what Tony Blair has done in support of George Bush but acts of terrorism are not the answer.

  • 10.
  • At 06:02 PM on 25 Aug 2006,
  • Hugh wrote:

I reckon you have the basis for a new reality prog there Peter. Why don't you simply call it: "That's Life!"

[Wait a minute that was Esther's big one wasn't it ... ?]

  • 11.
  • At 07:50 PM on 25 Aug 2006,
  • chris wrote:

Newsnight editor does Stars in their eyes - outrageous !

Stress? try being homeless (I have) or working with / living with someone who has a personality disorder (I have)

Excellent, it was a good interview about a blning stupid incident. By the way, how's your IBS.

  • 13.
  • At 09:56 PM on 25 Aug 2006,
  • Jenny wrote:

Whilst up at the Television Festival, that clashes so unfortunately with so many other events, not least the last Bank Holiday weekend of the summer in England and Wales, perhaps you and your fellow BBC editors and executives could think on how your blogs are showing a real, appreciative, public appetite for discussion of the beliefs and assumptions and methods and ethics and policies of television, and how maybe some of the events up there might make both interesting postings in blogs, but also programme/webcast material in future years? Or the present if anyone up there is taping. In the past such was dismissed as navel-gazing, but perhaps you (plural) are now seeing that opening it up somewhat is worthwhile?


  • 14.
  • At 10:35 PM on 25 Aug 2006,
  • Julian Corner wrote:

Talking about, Stars In Their Eyes", I remember a time when a chap said, "Tonight, Matthew, I'm going to be, Glenn Miller." Then he disappeared into the fog, and no-one has seen him since...........

  • 15.
  • At 10:40 PM on 25 Aug 2006,
  • nerdboy wrote:

Haha, the end of the NHS report tonight was pure Brass Eye.

What's with the whole "'s the patient doing?" schtick?!

  • 16.
  • At 10:02 AM on 26 Aug 2006,
  • John Hurst wrote:

There is good deal of research which suggests that when people are under stress they are likely to go into 'reptilian brain mode' (as opposed to becoming autistic for a brief period). The reptilian brain is the lower core of the brain and is the bit that covers survival, dominance, preening and mating etc. This part of the brain is present in life forms such as lizards and birds etc.
Under duress, we can abandon the higher reasoning part of our brain, and sometimes make less rational more instinctive decisions, which is why the term 'with hindsight' is quite often used!

  • 17.
  • At 11:23 AM on 26 Aug 2006,
  • Jennifer WATTS wrote:

Dear Newsnight, How do you know you are about to receive a comment about Newsnight and in particular the Editor. I just could not resist it... I do not think where I have found more fun, touched with sadness as well. the Monarch duo deserve free seats on any aircraft to Spain or otherwise, but the recording was stupendous,not unlike a mimic having got the voice right of the principal speaker, talking while he remained incomunicado! The same hapened in the Israeli/Lebanon/UN interview,when unfortunately the words followed the action, am I right? And also in the translation of Chirac's speech in front of the German President, when Chirac is always seen, if not represented, as being warm, confidential and equal to control of this world, I dare not say more! May I finish with your ulitmate stress,I do hope it was not too serious. It makes viewing BBC more human, at least one learns we are not mere mortals; prone to boobs which we find extremely stressful. After all I was brought up to think the BBC never made a mistake. Did you get my translation, it does not matter ther are now 2000 French troops for L. thanks for yourselves etc. Congrats.

  • 18.
  • At 01:56 PM on 26 Aug 2006,
  • Jenny wrote:

Peter Walker wrote: inept piece of television journalism with no attempt made to identify why the pair had no luggage... the Daily Mirror sees Newsnight as its TV equivalent

Perhaps their luggage had been lost in the chaos on the way out there?

If you had to choose between the usual cheque-book brandishing papers (Mirror, Sun, Mail, Express), which would you choose? And if then asked which television programme you would prefer to be interviewed by, to get over that you weren't a terrorist and wasn't bearing grudges, having a choice since you hadn't initially opted for Murdoch's Sun, wouldn't you choose Newsnight? To me it seems a fair compliment to Newsnight rather than an insult.

Dare I suggest that you check out another piece of Mr. Gladwell’s which you will find at – – I guarantee it is worth the read and perhaps even sending a copy or two on to some folks if need of education. While you are at it, another book you might pick up is Chris Anderson’s – The Long Tail.
As for the youngsters who got taken off the plane, I suggest a judicious and forthright application of the Three Rules of Assessment is in order, with particular attention paid to the Third:
1 – Look for what is there that shouldn’t be;
2 – Look for what isn’t there that should be;
3 – Do put your Ego (Agenda) on a peg at the door. . .
Example:- You walk into a room with people deep in conversation -
The conversation stops and everyone looks at you -
It is not because you have walked into the room -
It is because someone has walked into the room
I enjoy my daily dose of the BEEB, living as I do close, sometime too close, to the gravitational, rapidly darkening well that is the United States. Yet things are looking up, as there is change coming, people are starting to take their own initiative seriously and getting over being ‘Victims’ of whatever crisis is placed before them.
We are changing for the better, neighborhoods, Lincoln Park and Hell’s Kitchen and several lessor known places as well. Too, there is coming the pending ‘Invasion of Liverpool’ in early ‘07 with Glasgow to follow shortly behind. The irony of it all being that the group of folks seen sitting of the ‘Nicest surf beach in the Northwest’ were doing something else beside what it appeared.
I thank you for your humor, one, at least, rational voice in the fog.

I honestly can't decide whether using the word 'autistic' in this article was inappropriate or not.

I suspect it was.

  • 21.
  • At 08:52 AM on 27 Aug 2006,
  • Carol Pryce wrote:

Very witty and brilliant.
Thoroughly enjoyed reading!

  • 22.
  • At 10:09 AM on 27 Aug 2006,
  • Rana wrote:

These are the stresses we have to endure.

This television festival is in Scotland, where you (plural) is happily called "youse". How interesting is that?

  • 24.
  • At 05:24 PM on 27 Aug 2006,
  • Jennifer WATTS wrote:

Hi Peter Barron,
Having read your comments to your letter on stress, I feel I must say more about how amusing your articles are, and how much I enjoy them.
Keep them coming, and do let us know about your debut in 'Stars in your eyes'!

  • 25.
  • At 11:42 PM on 27 Aug 2006,
  • old-and-grumpy wrote:

Stress in the workplace?

Tell me about it - my employers tried to change my job duties to one that involved dealing with "the public" which was something I could not do. At the time my wife was ill, causing me extra stress, I "went sick" from work - never to return. I was in a Union (which could not understand my problem) and was eventually retired "due to ill health". That was at the age of 52 & 5 years ago.

The NHS has been next to useless. I even paid for private treatment until it became too expensive.

It is now classed as "depression". You will probably say the problem is "in my head" and maybe it is, but there seems to be no help available to help me over the problems.

For me to have submitted this I must be having a bad night!

Interesting. Nothing to say about the follow up investigation which showed the passengers were right to suspect something was amiss with the two Muslim men?

The two claim there were on a day trip to Malaga to check it our for a vacation the following month. But they took a 7:30 pm flight with a 3 am return. Not much time to look around, now is there? However, it would be plenty of time for a dry run or a set up to scream islamaphobia.

Further, the two claimed to be students at Uni and had upcomming exams and would be unavailable for further interviews. There's just one problem with that:

"The university is closed until September."

So, what do you say BBC? Care to spend some of our tax dollars that we fund you with to investigate further? I'm betting not.

See here:

  • 27.
  • At 11:43 AM on 29 Aug 2006,
  • Mark wrote:

If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. Maybe you are in the wrong employment. Perhaps you should move to a small village in a rural area and open a flower shop. Even that has its stresses. Whatever you do, don't become a policeman, especially one who is requred to carry firearms.

  • 28.
  • At 06:39 AM on 30 Aug 2006,
  • Richard Morris wrote:

I get stressed when 'professional communicators' use the word 'obviously'. Don't you self-edit?

Obviously not Richard (28). I'll be more careful in future.

  • 30.
  • At 11:21 AM on 31 Aug 2006,
  • jennifer watts wrote:

Hi, Peter Barron,
Having re-read your comments on appearing in Stars in your Eyes, I feel you are being stresed by the general public regarding Why (shouldn't I have appeared - my answer- Why not, or as the French say (you must have haved heard it, while in France for your hols., and de-stressing period) Pourquoi Pas - it has added steel. Polite, but almost, whoops, a gentle swear-word, which I am not allowed to repeat on the Beep.
More controversial blogs please, they are like icing on the cake.Jennifer W.

  • 31.
  • At 07:11 PM on 09 Sep 2006,
  • matt wrote:


yeah, that's right, i cannot believe you don't have anything to do with the moderation, you need to sack whichever moronic organisation is doing the moderating, i had to repost a short, non offensive, totally non specific post SIX times over FIVE hours, and it's like that time and time again

some time ago now, a poster indulging in behavoir you would not tolerate in your programme (he's continued a personal vendetta/libel campaign for ten to twenty posts) - i assume he works for the people you have doing your moderating, as his always show, and he's even laughing about how mine don't/then do

i say some time ago now, as since friday 8th september the "moderators" have been blocking this post i hope you now read

please sort him/it out

posts never show up, or they require up to six submissions, one time, it took SIX hours for the reply to the jerk libelling me to appear


well newsnight, i was misled, i thought you had 'something' to do with this website, very sad times, there are no places for people to have their voice heard...everyone's a "terrorist" on the street, voting and left/right paradigm is a sham, newsnights high values made to be meaningless on the internet, sad sad times

with my posts disappearing at random and the inexplicable "moderation"

and the continuing 'acceptability' of 'the idiot' being left to continue, i'm out of here, what a shame, newsnight, i thought better of you

i leave the field open to vikingar, victorious over justice, long may his type reign over us all

strange, the 'team' organising your forum for you don't seem to want to let you see this post, i wonder why ?

i told you, "moderator", i'll keep reposting this, if it takes 1,000 attempts or more, SO BE IT

This post is closed to new comments.

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