I am a fan of the Olympic Games and look forward to them every four years. I was an All-American sprinter myself, having competed against some Olympic medalists, and have a special interest in Track and Field. This is the perfect example of a sport that doesn’t get so much exposure outside of the Summer Olympics, so the events become a stage for athletes in these fields to shine in the rarer-than-usual limelight. The 2012 Olympic Games are underway and as a former athlete and fan, I am looking forward to some amazing performances.
But I am also a sports medicine physician and have treated many elite level athletes, including Olympic Champions. This adds an additional perspective for me as an onlooker- layered within a former athlete, fan, and doctor-and one that I have a hard time coming to grips with. The 2012 Olympic Games are underway and I am looking forward to some amazing performances. The question is, will I believe them?
A top executive I know recently decided to take Inderal before making high-pressure/high-anxiety presentations. The impact was immediate. She felt more relaxed, confident and effective. Her people agreed.
Would she encourage a comparably anxious subordinate to take the drug? No. But if that employee’s anxiety really undermined his or her effectiveness, she’d share her story and make them aware of the Inderal option. She certainly wouldn’t disapprove of an employee seeking prescription help to become more productive.
No one in America thinks twice anymore if a colleague takes Prozac. (Roughly 10% of workers in Europe and the U.K. use antidepressants, as well). Caffeine has clearly become the (legal) stimulant of business choice and Starbucks its most profitable global pusher (two shots of espresso, please).
Increasingly, prescription ADHD drugs like Adderall, dedicated to improving attention deficits, are finding their way into gray market use by students looking for a cognitive edge. When one looks at existing and in-the-pipeline drugs for Alzheimer’s and other neurophysiological therapies for aging OECD populations with retirements delayed, the odds are that far more employees are going to be taking more drugs to get more work done better.
Performance-enhancing (or degraded performance-delaying) drugs will become as common as that revitalizing cup of afternoon coffee.
Should that be encouraged? Or should management pretend those options don’t exist?
Most managers would believe they’re doing a good thing if they encouraged a hard-of-hearing employee to explore a hearing aid or a visually-impaired colleague to consider glasses. By contrast, encouraging an under-performing subordinate to lose 25 pounds, get a hair transplant or contact-lenses would likely inspire a formal complaint to Human Resources and/or a possible lawsuit. Ironically, the money isn’t the issue here; the business norms associated with perceived cosmetic and aesthetic concerns are radically different from those attached to job performance and productivity.Continue reading…