professionals under pressure
on 18 February 2002 )
That advertising is a killer
profession is something known to all of us for quite some
time. Demanding clients, strict deadlines, late nights,
extensive interpersonal communication and competition (read:
socialising, egos), make for a potent combination, leading
to burn out, ulcers and sometimes, even heart attacks.
welcome to the world of television. A survey carried out
between mid-January and early February 2002 on indiantelevision.com,
has revealed that executives working in television believe
that they are living highly stressed lives. The survey asked
visitors to vote on whether they were overstressed. The
options given to them were Yes, No and Can't say.
A majority of them - 74 per cent to be precise - said Yes,
19 per cent were No! and six per cent said they could not
say. Altogether 349 votes were cast. There's a message for
television channels and production houses in the poll.
Stress is driving most professionals up the wall, particularly
in the last couple of years. Although the phenomenon has
not been studied or analysed thus far, a wide variety of
TV professionals agree that a recessionary economy, rising
levels of competition, higher incidence of layoffs and tight
schedules inherent to the field are playing havoc with their
"Unless one consciously takes time off for oneself and family,
one stands the risk of losing one's sanity," says Sameera
Kohli, head of business development at Inhouse Productions.
pressures are not telling only on executives; actors, writers,
directors, technicians, editors - the entire spectrum of
those working in TV is afflicted. Industrial psychologist
Venkatesh Iyer says the malady is manifesting itself in
depression, substance abuse and marital conflict. As a popular
artiste remarks, "There's no time even to fall ill in this
Tight budgets, resulting in tighter schedules and strict
deadlines require professionals to work long hours, often
even on weekends. Networking is also an essential aspect
of the industry, which eats into social life.
"I rarely make commitments to my family, because I know
I will have to skip them at the last minute," says Shivaji
Phulsundar, head of programming at Doordarshan, Mumbai.
Agrees clinical psychologist Kuldeep Datay, "Stress in this
industry is induced by constraints imposed on personal career
goals and expectations." Based on their observations, Iyer
and Datay say stress symptoms arising out of the chase for
TRPs are often covered up as eccentricities, not considered
unusual for people in this profession.
Indiantelevision.com eye opening survey on Stress
in the Television business
The duo have listed some reasons for stress in television
The profession becomes a lifestyle rather than a just
Compartmentalisation between viewer and the creator builds
up and alienation tends to increase.
Constant deadlines and instant evaluations are a distinction
of this industry, which can lead to an emotional roller
coaster ride of the people involved. Thus, agony of failure
and ecstasy of success become everyday occurrences
Knee jerk reactions are constantly demanded.
Unpredictable, astounding and dramatic factors to attract
viewer attention is constantly needed, requiring professionals
to constantly think and act differently to suit this need.
These professionals are supposed to remain just there,
and task orientation becomes paramount and the humanness
of the professionals or people orientation decreases or
is even absent.
Multiple audience demands, multitudes of channels combating
for TRPs, living in the limelight, where their products
evoke strong reactions, especially in a diverse country
like India where unwritten rules are the norm and not
Breaking the pattern becomes paramount to initiate attention
and then stabilizing enough to maintain the interest turn
into conflicting objectives. This tight rope walking become
arduous where success is revered and failure abhorred.
Compared to other high stress professions like advertising,
health services, financial management, crime fighting,
the TV industry which exploded in India just a decade
ago, is still struggling to find a structure and niche.
like Kohli blame the recession for the havoc the tight schedules
are playing on their nerves. "One off shows are fine; but
ongoing TV shows can be really killing," she says.
On the other hand, artistes say they have it even worse.
"Tighter budgets mean producers try to extract more work
from actors," says actor Gajendra Chauhan, who is currently
working for BR Chopra's Ramayan on Zee. Chauhan says an
average shooting day comprises 13 gruelling hours of being
before the camera and on location. Producers these days
are loath to bank episodes as channels determine a serial's
longevity on the ratings, requiring rigorous shooting throughout
the week for an episode that's to be aired on the coming
The time lag of 120 days for actors' payment also takes
a toll on artistes who are not so well off, adding to higher
stress levels. "The entire chain of channel, advertisers,
production houses has become insecure in the last couple
of years," he says, "forcing everyone to run harder
to stay where they were."
the television executives, says Datay, dependence of various
outside sources like the movies, advertisements, and linguistic,
political and cultural barriers make decision making more
difficult. Past experience and training are virtually non
existent and one needs to make one's own rules and chart
out new routes in this industry. Says Phulsundar: "Accountability
is instantly judged on television unlike in other fields.
Most of the time, we carry the work home - in our minds!"
The stakes are high in the television business with salaries
being extremely mouthwatering, especially in television
channels like Star and Sony Entertainment. At the senior
level, they run into crores of salaries each year. Hence,
the pressure to deliver is immense. Bonuses if targets are
achieved further add to the rat race.
television - like advertising has members of the both the
sexes - employed at every level. And because of the nature
of the business, both female and male executives work closely
with each other, in high pressured environments through
the day and often even late into the night. The television
industry makes for a good ground for extra marital dalliances,
which can put pressure on relationships, that can further
put a strain on the marriage and on the individuals who
wonder what went wrong. Indiantelevision.com believes that
the divorce ratio in the television business is likely to
see a rise in the coming years. Something that managements
have to keep a look out for.
says Dr Iyer, a "macho mentality" pervades in the competitive
professional organisations. If a person complains about
incapability to handle the excess workload and mental strain
that accompanies it, he/she is perceived as weak minded.
Consequently, there is a tendency to suppress pain and problems.
Says a news channel professional: "Stress here is definitely
more than other channels. Here you have to meet the deadlines
before the news become old and irrelevant unlike entertainment
channels where the programmes are first produced and then
scheduled for telecast."
Self-denial for actors and executives starting out on a
career in television is a common phenomenon, say the psychologists.
The excess baggage of stress they carry is taken as a recompense
for the celebrity status that they expect to encounter later
much of planning and introspection is invested to finding
a meaningful balance between work and other life activities,
and the task-oriented coping skills developed so far, often
get in the way of this search, they aver. Apart from inculcating
this, a sense of humour too is vital, say doctors. Inhibitions
that increase as one rises in the social hierarchy need
to be shrugged off sometime. Doses of humour and spontaneity
are needed to be injected into life too, they say. Emotional
goals need to be set down as clearly as career goals.
includes a range of options from, saying a firm "NO"
to some professional intrusions in your personal life to
trying to achieve geographical proximity in all activity
centres. The doctors also recommended professionals giving
themselves occasional liberty of "absolute lazy moments".
Here are a few of the doctors' tips to help the demon within-
Pick your priorities, and then do what's important first
Don't be a slave to other people's schedules
If you're bored, do something to recharge your interest
If your job is too stressful, renegotiate your workload
Find a buddy you trust, and blow off steam
Relaxation / Meditation
Re-evaluate your lifestyle priorities.
Don't ignore physical symptoms of stress.
Realise that you're not perfect
Attend a stress management seminar.
Talk with a trained counselor
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