How Little Things Pile Up

and Create Big Problems and

What to Do about It





I am pleased to announce the imminent release of my new book The Microstress Effect: How Little Things Pile Up and Create Big Problem – and What to Do About It, which I co-authored with Rob Cross, a Babson professor and co-founder/research director of Connected Commons, a 150+ organization think tank. This book, which shares insights from more than 300 interviews with high performers, helps explain why so many of us are feeling on the edge of burnout all the time.

It’s a topic that deeply resonates with me, personally, and perhaps for you, too. In our research, we identified how we are all susceptible to an invisible form of stress—what we call “microstress”. Because they’re so brief and happen in routine interactions, microstresses don’t trigger the normal fight or flight response. But cumulatively they are debilitating.

There is a force in our everyday lives that we aren’t aware of— and it’s so powerful it threatens to derail otherwise promising careers and lives: microstress.

It’s the hidden epidemic of small moments of stress that infiltrate both our work and personal lives.

Because each individual microstress is so small, it doesn’t trigger the normal stress response in our brains to help us deal with it. Instead, the microstress embeds in our minds, accumulating along with scores of other microstresses.

The long-term effect is devastating: microstress invisibly weighs us down, damages our physical and emotional health, and contributes to a decline in our overall well-being. What’s more, microstress is baked into our lives. The source is seldom a classic antagonist, such as a demanding client or jerk boss. Instead, it comes from the people—in and out of work—with whom we are closest: our friends, family, and colleagues.

The good news is that once you learn about microstress, you can fight back. Drawing on fresh research, Rob Cross and Karen Dillon will explain the science behind what microstress is doing to you and teach you how to recognize and manage the most common forms of microstress, and even remove some from your life.

Compelling interviews with high achievers who’ve endured their share of microstress bring to life best practices that show you how to build resilience against microstress, and ultimately how to find purpose in your everyday life, using it as an antidote to your own microstress.

Break free from the microstress that’s stealing your life.

The Microstress Effect describes how to recognize and develop an action plan for combatting this form of stress. But it goes a step further by showing how people who are thriving in their professional and personal lives avoid being dragged down by microstress. This book offers real hope that it’s possible to shake that feeling of constant exhaustion and get your life back on track.


Karen Dillon the co-author of the three books with Clayton Christensen, including New York Times best-seller, How Will You Measure Your Life? and the forthcoming (April 2023) The Microstress Effect: How Little Things Pile Up and Create Big Problems–and What to Do about It with Rob Cross.

She is also co-author of Wall Street Journal business best-seller Competing Against Luck: the Story of Innovation and Customer Choice and The Prosperity Paradox: How Innovation Can Lift Nations Out of Poverty (Thinkers50 finalist, Breakthrough Idea, 2019).

A former editor of Harvard Business Review, Karen is also a current member of the faculty of Intermountain Healthcare Leadership Institute.

What People Are Saying

The Microstress Effect is a revelation. Cross and Dillon offer practical and sensible strategies for regaining control of your time and your well-being, drawn from years of academic research.

If small hassles and burdens are infecting your life, this remarkable book is the antidote.

Daniel H. Pink

#1 New York Times bestselling author, The Power of Regret, Drive and When

Cross and Dillon provide fresh insight into one of the most important topics of our time—why so many high performers are at risk of burnout in both their careers and their lives. Based on solid academic research, The Microstress Effect offers not only hope but also practical guidance for fending off microstress and living a rich, fulfilling life.

Susan David

#1 Wall Street Journal bestselling author, Emotional Agility

With stories that everyone can relate to, easy-to-use self-assessments, and practical coaching breaks, the authors offer us real hope that we can create a happier and healthier life for ourselves and those around us. This book should be required reading for corporate leaders and individuals alike! I will be giving it to the people I care most about.

Jacqueline Williams-Roll

Chief Human Resources Officer, General Mills.

I read this brilliant book and said “Yup, yup, yup” over and over again. Cross and Dillon put the experiences of high performers into words. Microstresses exist and cause inordinate social, emotional, and physical risk. Following their astute insights, readers will recognize their stresses and how to overcome them. Nothing could be more meaningful in this emotionally demanding time.

Dave Ulrich

Rensis Likert Collegiate Professor of Business Administration, Ross School of Business, University of Michigan; Partner, The RBL Group

Timely, practical, credible, and timeless, with more practical tips for lowering my stress levels than anything I’ve read in years, The Microstress Effect is a game changer. I read it in one sitting and need the people around me to read it—now!

Tom Rath

Bestselling author, StrengthsFinder 2.0 and Life’s Great Question

Cross and Dillon shed light on the unexpected ripple effect of our daily interactions and relationships, clarifying the critical nature of human connections in this important new book. Introducing microstress as new form of stress, they also provide practical steps for fighting back. Everyone can benefit from reading this book.

Amy Edmondson

Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management, Harvard Business School; author, The Fearless Organization

The Microstress Effect gives fresh, actionable advice to fight back, take control, and live a richer life each day.

Dorie Clark

Wall Street Journal bestselling author, The Long Game; faculty member, Executive Education, Duke University Fuqua School of Business

With so much attention being paid to individual well-being, it’s astounding that so little consideration has been given to the day-to-day microstress every one of us endures. Thank goodness for Rob Cross and Karen Dillon. In The Microstress Effect they help us recognize this invisible epidemic and leverage research to help us remove microstress so we can live healthier and happier lives.

Kevin Oakes

CEO, Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp)

This is an enlightening work on a new, insidious, and invisible form of stress that is derailing even the most high-performing employees. But the authors offer solutions as well. This book should be required reading for business leaders in organizations of all sizes.

John Boudreau

Emeritus Professor of Management and Organization, Emeritus, and Research Director, Center for Effective Organizations, Marshall School of Business, University of Southern California

Cross and Dillon have done a masterful job of flipping our thinking. Their identification of microstressors that sits below our perceptual threshold is uniquely powerful. Just as powerful is the idea that the sheer number of necessary connections we must have today can be reframed and redirected to create resilience rather than spiraling down into collaborative and connective overload. A post pandemic must-read for business leaders.

Dennis Baltzley

Senior Partner and Global Head of Leadership Development, Korn Ferry

The Microstress Effect makes a compelling case that, for most of us, it’s the cumulative impact of one little problem after another that can ruin our lives. Rob Cross and Karen Dillon pack this lively gem with practical and proven solutions. It will help you eliminate pesky microstressors, suffer less from your remaining troubles, and—by taking joy in the lovely little moments—travel through your days with a zest for life.

Robert I. Sutton

Professor of Organizational Behavior, Stanford Graduate School of Business; bestselling author, The No Asshole Rule, Good Boss, Bad Boss; and coauthor (with Huggy Rao), Scaling Up Excellence

Powerful! The Microstress Effect gives you the actionable steps you need to take control of your life and create a balance in your work that leaves you feeling fulfilled. A must-read for anyone feeling stuck in a cycle of stress and hurry!

Marshall Goldsmith

Thinkers50 #1 Executive Coach; New York Times bestselling author (with Mark Reiter), The Earned Life, Triggers, and What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

Chock full of practical tools, this empowering guide reminds us of the critical importance of relationships and shows us how to meaningfully cultivate them in our everyday choices.

Stew Friedman

Practice Professor of Management, Emeritus, The Wharton School of Business; author, Total Leadership

The Microstress Effect is a real eye-opener and will forever change the way I look at stress. I absolutely recommend it for anyone who wants to regain their energy, focus on what truly matters, and live a life fully in alignment with their core values.

Friederike Fabritius

Wall Street Journal bestselling author, The Brain-Friendly Workplace

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