Stress affects men too

Whilst recent research suggests that it is women at the top who are suffering more from stress the executive chairman of Alliance Boots, Stefano Pessina, has publicly stated that Andy Hornby, The Group Chief Executive, left Boots in March because he was suffering from stress.

Pessina denied that there was no real job for Hornby even though there were already two divisional chief executives (one of them Pessina’s partner) and Pessina, the executive chairman, apparently always took the lead in talking to the business world. No wonder there was speculation about “personality differences“.

Alliance Boots has been very profitable as well as being criticised for how it arranges its tax affairs – its HQ is in the low tax Swiss canton of Zug – but some investors may not have been too happy about backing a Hornby-led Boots whenever it goes to market after his HBOS debacle.

Pessina said; “We have been very clear about the reason for his departure … he was stressed, he had had some difficult years and probably he decided to come back too early … it happens every day (with) managers who are stressed deciding to take time off”.

However it was originally said he wasn’t pushed, and it wasn’t health-related, and it was his own choice. It probably was as he didn’t receive a payoff but he shouldn’t  be worrying too much about  money as he was paid over £2 million for his first 9 months at Boots including a £400,000 signing on fee.

Even so I can’t help but wonder what Hornby thinks about his former boss’s statement – it’s hardly likely to add value to his already damaged CV. Maybe it’s karma for the stress we have all been suffering due to bankers like him and “Fred the Shred”. Tough at the Top?

Updated 3 November 2011: A second CEO from the banking sector has succumbed to stress. Lloyds Banking Group has announced that its CEO, Antonio Horta-Osorio, who moved from Santander to lead the recovery for the Government-owned bank, will be taking 2 months off work due to “extreme fatigue” brought on by overwork.

Several analysts are speculating that he won’t be fit to return so soon (an “heroic assumption” one said) and LBG has already announced that its CFO, himself due to leave because of Horta-Osorio’s re-organisation plans, will take over in the interim. And that hasn’t pleased the City either.

The portuguese financial expert has been liked to compatriot Jose Mourinho and he is reported to “very hands on” and has a reputation as a micro-manager, not necessarily the right style for a CEO who needs to see the bigger picture. He is also said to be a perfectionist, so likely to be hard on himself and perhaps not good at delegating.

A former colleague has said; “he is more likely to cause others stress than suffer it himself”. So a Typhoid Mary of the stress world and maybe a Type A personality – high-achieving, multi-tasking with a sense of urgency, perhaps a hint of aggression or hostility to those not delivering (the AHA syndrome).

This was his first job running a public company and he had a massive agenda and probably well worth his £2m salary. It’s interesting to speculate if his cultural background makes him believe it’s OK to take time off work and spend more time with his family rather than adopt a more Anglo-saxon “stiff upper lip” approach.

Going public about stress is probably a good thing but can be a career-breaker. Andy Hornby, ex HBOS and then Boots, and now CEO at Coral, can’t have been too pleased to read his  chairman’s comments about his state of health.

For those of you who don’t believe in coincidences Hornby was given a £60k a month retainer with the LBG to ease his transition into the job market after leaving HBOS in ruins. MPs and others protested and after share prices dived he was asked to leave.

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