Icebreakers – Stress Management

We’ve all heard the saying, “The whole world’s a stage.” What movie is playing at your place of work?

Patricia Fripp, one of the top professional speakers in North America, gives three points for good customer service. These are:

  • Make heroes of your employees;
  • See yourself through your customers’ eyes; and
  • See your company through the boss’s eyes.

Choose one of the three points and then think about how you could use it to change one thing about your workplace or how you work. What would you change? How would this change affect the way you feel about your work?

President Truman, when asked how he managed to keep so young and energetic given the demands of office, replied, “I have a foxhole in my mind.”

Imagine that you have a foxhole in your mind that you retreat to in order to rest and re-energize yourself. What does your foxhole look, sound and smell like?

Sun Tzu, the famous Chinese military strategist, stated, “To wait at ease while the enemy is toiling and struggling, to be well fed while the enemy is famished – this is the art of husbanding one’s strength.”

This statement can also pertain to how we deal with stress – your problems and all the various things that make your life difficult can be thought of as your enemies.

What is one way that you could starve a problem that is afflicting you? What is one way that you could make sure that the things that help you deal with stress are well fed?

Imagine a rattlesnake posed to strike. You need to act fast to kill it quickly, before it bites you. What do you do?

Now imagine that same rattlesnake is something that is causing you stress. Remember how you killed the rattlesnake and apply that same method of execution to the thing that is causing your stress.

What method will you use to kill the stress? How can you apply this analogy to solving your real life problem?

For example, one person might imagine grabbing a lasso, roping the rattlesnake and hanging it up to dry. Her problem is that she is always interrupted in work by phone calls. The solution: literally hanging up the phone. She might decide only to answer the phone at certain times of the day (i.e. first hour in the morning, first hour after lunch, and last half-hour of the day). The rest of the time the phone is hung up to dry, with the answering machine turned on.

Another person might shoot the snake. His problem is his boss doesn’t seem to trust him and is always in his office asking how this project, or that project, is running. The answer might be to, first thing each morning, shoot their boss a memo (or email) outlining what is happening with each current project.

Which movie title best describes how you deal with stress in your life:

  • Sleepless in Seattle;
  • Psycho;
  • Face Off;
  • The Silence of the Lambs; or
  • What Dreams May Come?


Which situation would cause you the LEAST stress?

  • Driving your car in rush hour traffic;
  • Getting a last minute work assignment;
  • Trying to motivate someone who doesn’t want to be motivated;
  • Budgeting;
  • Being blamed for something someone else did; or
  • Waiting for someone else to complete a section of a project so that you can start your contribution?

Which would be MOST stressful?

Which of these would be your worst possible nightmare:

  • Feeling out of control;
  • Not being able to do a good job; or
  • Not being able to please your boss?

These are all ABC internet news headlines from way back – the week of July 26, 1999. Which one best illustrates how you feel about the stress in your life?

  • Passengers, Crew Escape Sinking Cruise Ship;
  • Circus Elephant Drowns in Texas;
  • Chicago Neighborhood Under Siege;
  • Boy Confirmed as Jagger’s; or
  • Barbie Under Fire in Battle of Babes?


Michael J. Goldberg in his book, “Getting Your Boss’s Number,” says that there are nine different types of people. He calls these people, the (have the list on an overhead or flipchart):

  • Perfectionist;
  • Helper;
  • Producer;
  • Connoisseur;
  • Sage;
  • Troubleshooter;
  • Visionary;
  • Top Dog; and
  • Mediator.

Which one are you? Without getting into too much detail or specifics, which type causes you the most stress? Why?

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