Your Bad Boss is Bad for Your Heart (and everything else)

May 30, 2017 •  4 minute read • by Saeed


“People leave their supervisors, not their companies” ~ Unknown

Stress-producing bosses are not just bad for productivity, morale, loyalty, and engagement. They are literally bad for your heart.

In a large-scale study of over 20,000 employees conducted at the Karolinska Institute, results showed a strong link between leadership behavior and heart disease in employees.

The study also found that the stress of belonging to hierarchies itself is linked to disease and death. The lower someone’s rank in a hierarchy, the higher their chances of cardiovascular disease and death from heart attacks.

As a leader, it’s important to recognize your impact on those around you. No matter where you are in the org chart, from first level manager to CEO, your efforts and attitude impact your team.

Gallup calls this the “Cascade Effect” – that is to say, engagement at one level impacts the morale of those below you in your organization.

Performance is Personal Before it is Organizational

Relationship problems in the workplace have been found to be associated with absenteeism, decreased productivity and decreased engagement. You could probably add a few more to the list based on your own observations.

I’ve personally seen this pattern repeat itself time and time again: The issues that impede organizational progress the most are the people relationship issues – not the subject matter or the content of the work itself.

That’s because whatever the topic – revenue generation, customer service, or business results – it requires collaboration, communication, and coordination by people to move the ball forward.

It is the people that must understand and embrace the mission. It is the people who must be empowered to act on it. And most importantly, it is the people who must develop productive working relationships to advance the project.

Negative work environments increase stress. Reducing your stress levels can not only make you feel better right now, but may also protect your health long-term.

3 Characteristics of a Positive Work Environment

Conversely, the Karolinska study also showed that employees who rated their managers as inspirational, positive and enthusiastic also reported less short-term sick leave.

Supervision is not just about ensuring task completion. As a boss, it’s imperative that you create a positive and healthy work culture for your team. In fact, this should be on every supervisorial job description.

Here are three ways to foster a positive work environment:

1.      Demonstrate Empathy – defined as the ability to experience and relate to the thoughts, emotions, or experience of others, empathy is more than mere sympathy. It is a key part of social and emotional intelligence critical to being an effective leader. Transformational leaders show their teams that they care about their needs and achievements. Giving time and attention to others fosters empathy. So do active listening skills. Good listeners foster trust which in turn fosters greater engagement. Leaders can develop and enhance their empathy skills through coaching, training, and other professional development opportunities.

2.      Show Gratitude – Show appreciation for your team members as a routine part of your day-to-day interactions. Act on the belief that employees will do their best if their contributions to the team are recognized. Praise publicly and criticize privately. Criticizing employees publicly can create a sense of embarrassment among all who are present and diminish their respect for you as a leader.

3.      Reinforce Purpose – Today’s employees, especially Millennials, want more from their jobs than just a paycheck. Research shows that employees with a strong sense of purpose are at least four times more likely to be engaged in their jobs as other employees. They are also healthier, happier and more productive. Explain to employees exactly where they fit into the company structure and how they contribute to the success of the business. Institutionalize purpose driven conversations.

The research is clear. Employees and employers mutually benefit from a positive, engaged and purpose-driven work place. While there isn’t a magic bullet, it is possible to design work that better serves people, organizations and society. You can start to move the needle with these few simple steps. Yes, it’s clearly good for the bottom line but more importantly, it’s good for your cardiovascular health.

Good luck.

©2017 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

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Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

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