Monday Monday, Monday Morning…Less Than I Thought It Could Be?


By Adam Zak, Adam Zak Executive Search:

With apologies to the Mammas and the Pappas… If I really hate Mondays, will it kill me?

Last Friday, on the 4th of July, Mark Graban blogged away about an article he'd seen in London regarding the myth of “Monday morning blues”. Mark noted that this article “reminded me of comments I've heard our good friend Norman Bodek make a few times recently.” According to Mark (I've heard this first-hand from Norman as well) “Norman tells a story about how he always asks audiences what day of the week they like best. People hardly ever say Monday, their favorite day of the week is usually Friday. Norman says that's sad, as people should be able to enjoy their work, that Monday shouldn't be such a dreaded day.”

But what if going to work on Monday morning, or hating the job you do to earn a living, could actually kill you?

A heart attack occurs when a blood vessel supplying blood to a part of the heart becomes blocked. Blood flow stops. Result: permanent damage to the heart muscle.

How does the block occur? My buddy Kevin, former head of ER at Good Shepherd Hospital up the road simplifies it for me this way. A tiny chunk of plaque breaks away inside my artery, forms a teeny wound within the artery wall; blood platelets and proteins show up and form a clot. This clot gets big quickly. It obstructs blood flow. I feel angina (chest pain). If I can't shake the clot, I'll have a heart attack. I might die. So, back to hating Mondays, my job, my life…

According to CNN, a study carried out by Japan's Tokyo Women's Medical University and published in the American Journal of Hypertension, showed that many workers suffer a significant increase in blood pressure as they return to the office after the weekend. High blood pressure is associated with a greater risk of suffering a heart attack or a stroke, and the results could help to explain why there are more heart attacks on Mondays than at any other time of the week.

Doc Kevin's take on this: a change in blood pressure (up) causes those little chunks of plaque to break off. He tells me that my (and everyone's) blood pressure always increases as our bodies begin to awaken in the morning. But there's a limit to how much your BP can increase safely. As a former ER guy, Kevin has seen the Monday morning effect first-hand. Not sure I'd like to be in his Gemba for Monday AM rounds.

More from the Women's Heart Foundation : “studies show the most common time for a heart attack to occur is Monday morning.” Also per CNN, research published several years ago in the British Medical Journal showed a 20 percent spike in heart attacks at the beginning of the week. So is there more to hating Monday's, and conversely, looking forward to the weekend than might meet the eye?

Back to the Tokyo study: 175 men and women were fitted with devices to measure fluctuations in their blood pressure over the course of a week. The results showed a surge among those getting ready for work on Monday morning. Volunteers who were not going to work didn't experience a comparable increase, suggesting a link between increased blood pressure and work-related stress. “Most people are free of the mental and physical burdens of work on a Sunday and experience a more stressful change from weekend leisure activities to work activities on Mondays,” said Dr. Shuogo Murakami, who led the research.

Another large study involving multiple centers in the United States found that you're least likely to suffer a heart attack on weekends and most likely on a Monday. And many studies have shown that they are most common between the hours of 6 a.m. and noon. Among the possible explanations for this latter finding is that levels of blood pressure and the stress hormone epinephrine tend to be higher in the morning, along with an increased tendency for blood clot formation. This according to Dr. Simeon Margolis, M.D., Ph.D. (Yahoo LifeStyle) a professor of both medicine and biological chemistry at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

High blood pressure could also be caused by the stress of commuting. Hey, I live in Chicago. I don't need to hear about the stress of commuting. But British psychologist Dr. David Lewis recently showed that commuters suffered higher levels of stress during their journey to work than do than fighter pilots, with many recording increased heart rates at levels more usually associated with vigorous exercise. So was it really the commute? Or was it the anticipation of arriving at a dysfunctional workplace where ….

On January 29th of 2008, Michael Wilbon, Washington Post sports columnist and co-host of ESPN's “Pardon The Interruption”, suffered a minor heart attack early Monday morning. According to reports, Wilbon complained of chest pains to his wife around 3 a.m. She took him to the hospital. Doctors found minor blockage in his heart and performed an angioplasty, which successfully removed the blockage. He survived.

Was Tim Russert bucking the trend with a Friday AM heart attack? Or was this some kind of final political statement? Russert, host of NBC‘s “Meet the Press” talk show, died on the job of a heart attack on Friday, June 13, 2008 at age 58. Does this disprove our “Monday Morning Heart Attack” theory? Maybe not. Russert had just returned late the night before from an Italian vacation with his family. We'll have to assume the vacation itself was pretty relaxing. He arrived at his office after only a few hours of post-flight R&R. For Russert, this particular Friday morning turned out to be, effectively, his Monday. And certainly an unlucky Friday the 13th .

So, can Monday mornings kill us? Belinda Linden, Head of Medical Information at the British Heart Foundation, said a morning peak in blood pressure and the fact that more heart attacks occurred on Monday than on any other day of the week were both recognized by researchers. But she added that “larger and better controlled studies” were needed to establish the cause of the trends.

Or, I guess we could all just get jobs we really love and find fulfilling and satisfying, and which don't give us heart attacks. Too much to ask? A pipe dream?

How about we determine that we will create truly Lean working environments where the principles of respect for each other lead to Lean Leadership across the board, at all levels within our companies? Let's envision and build a workplace where we can take pride in our efforts, engage with each other and our customers, add measurable value by what we do, enable and empower each other, grow personally and professionally, and derive personal and professional satisfaction from our activities. Wouldn't it be great if we all worked in a place from which we could leave each evening with joy in our hearts? One which would energize us to look forward to the next morning with the positive anticipation for the awesome accomplishments to come that day? Lots fewer heart attacks, I'd bet.

Adam Zak

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Adam Zak
My name is Adam Zak. I help companies recruit truly exceptional Lean leaders. I had been doing retained executive search work for a number of years when I decided to break out on my own and create Adams & Associates International in 1990. Working for a few years with a couple of the very largest search firms had convinced me that I could add significantly more value and provide infinitely better service and quality to my clients from a smaller and more focused and responsive platform. Plus, even as a big-firm partner, I had never really felt much like my own boss. That changed when my name – today Adam Zak Executive Search – went on the door.


  1. I don’t think Russert is a good example. Everyone says he loved his job. his favorite days were working (and being with his family). Overseas travel is stressful on the body.

    That travel might well have a long term positive effect on health (the time away…) but in the 0-48 hours after it is not surprising to me that the body is more stressed and more likely to have health problems. I don’t have studies at my finger tips but I am sure people have studied this… so I would guess there is evidence as to whether this is true or not.


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