The Ding Effect:
Disruptions, Productivity, and Perspective

June 7, 2012 at 10:10 am
Filed under: employee well-being

employee well-being, sustainable productivityIt’s amazing what kind of insignificant things can completely upend a day. You’re running along at full speed when something puny — spilled coffee, a step in a puddle — completely derails your progress.

A woman I know calls this the “Ding Effect.”

It’s named for the small things that have outsize effects. For her, it was the day someone nicked the door of her new car.

At the time, she’d been ably managing a full workload, a sick child, a parent in need, a traveling husband, and another child applying to college. It was amazing to her that she could handle all that and yet be unceremoniously undone by a ding in her door. And yet there she was. “My obsession was completely out of proportion to the event,” she says with a laugh. “Even I knew I was being irrational.”

The Pitfalls of Maxing Out

Of course, it wasn’t about the ding. It wasn’t even about the car. It was about feeling the complete absence of control. She’d reached her max. And as a colleague of mine likes to say, “When you’re maxed out and something goes awry, the whole scaffolding goes down.” Hence, the Ding Effect.

Here’s where her employer came in handy. No, her boss didn’t offer a drive-by car detailer or an anti-ding employee program. But what her employer did have was a culture that said, “Feeling stressed because your family needs you? Go be with your family. Your career will not pay a price.” With that in mind, people are able to deal with the sick child, and the hospitalized parent, and the college application, and the traveling husband, and whatever else — big or small — and get back to business.

It’s an illustration that employee supports don’t have to be linear to work. Of course, support for the big issues — child care, adult/elder care — matters. And it helps to know how exactly your employees are being challenged.

The Indirect Approach

But it’s not all a tit-for-tat arrangement. When employers object that getting involved in employees’ lives outside of work is too big, I tell them they don’t have to solve every problem for their workforce. What they’re really trying to do is to build a culture that recognizes that these people have personal issues, and to create enough of a scaffolding to support them when disruptions — whether it’s a sick parent or a car ding — come along. That way, a business travel delay isn’t compounded by a child care breakdown; a traffic jam doesn’t become a day ender; and a ding doesn’t grow in scope to appear the size of a totaled car. And such a sense of well-being doesn’t just serve the employee. The premise is that when an overall sense of well-being keeps the other parts of life on track, people bounce back on the job quicker.

In the case of the woman with the car, once the disruptions in her universe received her full attention, the maxed-out feeling subsided and it took but a short time for her full workload to be tackled with her usual gusto.

The ding, now diminished in scope, took its place on the list as the minor nick that it was. It may still be an irritant, but not the kind that crashes a whole day.

Employees with high levels of well-being have the resilience to bounce back from disruptions and to effectively and sustainably deliver. The Bright Horizons® family of solutions supports employee well-being at every life stage.

Register now to join Dan for the upcoming webinar, The Well-Being Factor: Solving the Employee Productivity Equation, and gain immediate access to the latest research. Visit www.brighthorizons.com/well-being.  

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Comments (2)

  1. June 12, 2012 10:34 am

    Sharon E. Rabbitt wrote:

    The “ding” effect reminds me of Dr. Ned Hallowell’s books, CRAZY BUSY, in particular. He also has great free newsletters.

  2. May 25, 2014 10:38 am

    Why Employee Engagement Isn't Enough | Bright Horizons HR Blog wrote:

    […] supports it. You can install the big, splashy perks and hope for a solid workforce. But without focusing on the things that fly under the radar, engagement may not lead to effectiveness and the pieces of the performance puzzle won’t […]