Stress: How to get Screaming Monkeys off your Back

Stress has good intentions. It tells you to stay alert, prepare, avoid, or fight. But stress throws a fit when you ignore it.

Stress doesn’t care what you do as long as you agree, “We have a prrrrrobbbbblemmmmm!”

Monkey riding on its parent's back.

The cutest part of a monkey is its backside walking away from you.

The monkey technique:

Sometimes stress is a screaming monkey that belongs to someone else.

Someone walks into your office with a monkey that wears the disguise of a good idea. They say, “I think WE should (fill in the blank).” At that point you do something idiotic. You agree.

What they really meant was, “I think YOU should….” Before long you’ve taken ownership of their screaming monkey. Guess who walks out empty handed and stress free?

4 people with a monkey ownership addiction:

  1. Helpful Helen. Helen just can’t help being helpful, even if she can’t get her own job done. This is irresponsible helpfulness.
  2. Compassionate Charlie. Discomfort drives Charlie crazy. He rushes in to lift other people’s load, even if it’s their job. This is ruinous compassion.
  3. Brilliant Buford. Buford knows a better way to do things and ends up doing things himself. This is arrogant helpfulness.
  4. Imaginative Ida. Ida just needs one little nudge to generate a bucketful of new jobs for herself. This is the Dreamer’s dilemma.


Eliminate unnecessary stress by establishing monkey ownership. Say, “Not my monkey,” if it’s not your monkey. (Silently to yourself.)

Don’t be an uncaring jerk-hole. Don’t say, “Not my circus, not my monkey.” It is your circus if you’re part of an organization.

You care. But all the monkeys don’t belong to you.

Don’t say WE when you actually mean YOU.

The cutest part of a monkey is its backside walking away from you.

It doesn’t matter how cute the little monkey is – send it home with its owner.

How might leaders stop owning other people’s monkeys?

What helps you identify the true ownership of the monkey?

According to Gallup, workers’ stress reached a record high in 2020.