Your Workplace is Broken and It’s Your Manager’s Fault

June 5 , 2019 •  9 minute read • by Saeed

“Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boos the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, its amazing what they can accomplish.”

~Sam Walton

In high school, I had an English teacher who used to say that if you have one good friend in the course of your lifetime—just one—you should consider yourself lucky. Mr. Smith was right and the same can be said about good managers.

While the world’s workplace is going through extraordinary change, the practice of management has been frozen in time for decades.

Employees often cite lackluster benefits, low engagement, and lack of a challenge for their low levels of satisfaction. But when it comes to high levels of turnover, one culprit is likely to blame: poor management.

It’s been said that people don’t leave jobs, they leave managers, and in companies with high turnover, this is often true.

Turnover is costly to an organization in terms of both money and morale and losing a high-performing employee can be detrimental to a company’s health.

While a competent boss is likely to retain employees, an incompetent manager is likely to have the opposite effect. According to a study published in the Harvard Business Review, there is a strong correlation between a competent manager and an employee’s satisfaction. In other words, the more competent the boss, the more likely the employee is to stay with the company.

But that kind of competence is an endangered species and when turnover is high in a company, that’s a sign that Nessie may be lurking just below the surface (Nessie is the adorable name given to a large marine creature believed by some to inhabit Lock Ness, Scotland).

Fear and Loathing On the Shop Floor

A 2012 study, conducted by psychologist Michelle McQuaid, the author of Five Reasons to Tell Your Boss To Go F**k Themselves, found the majority of Americans are unhappy in the workplace—and more often than not, they say their boss is to blame.

In fact, 35% of U.S. employees said they would willingly forego a substantial pay raise if their direct supervisor got fired.

Gallup research found that 60% of government workers are miserable because of bad bosses. Significant percentages of US workers describe their bosses as follows:

  • Self-oriented (60%)
  • Stubborn (49%)
  • Overly demanding (43%)
  • Impulsive (41%)
  • Interruptive (39%)

Even more alarming, research by New York-based psychologist Paul Babiak has suggested up to 4% of business leaders in the US could be psychopaths.

Too often businesses focus on the bottom line but neglect the human beings who are the backbone of the organization.

What human beings need (besides good leadership) is psychological safety.

Just Google Psychological Safety

Google conducted a massive two-year study on team performance, which revealed that the highest-performing teams have one thing in common: psychological safety, the belief that you won’t be punished when you make a mistake.

It may be stating the obvious that when people are afraid, it hampers their creativity. Employees won’t take risks or try new things if they are in a constant state of fear.

When you manage via intimidation, people will fearfully work to meet expectations – but they will never exceed them. They will do the minimum required to keep you off their back but that’s as far as they will go. If you want to get optimal performance from people you have to not only capture their heads, but also their hearts.

When you create a safe, encouraging work relationship where it’s ok to make mistakes, you’ll end up with employees that are more proactive, creative and innovative.

Your Bad Boss Could Be Killing You (Literally)

Poor leadership is also resulting in elevated levels of anxiety, uncertainty, fear and indecisiveness across nearly all workplaces. But far worse, studies show that bad bosses are also bad for your heart.

In these studies clear links have been established between aggressive, intimidating or “bad” supervisors with increases in anxiety, depression, the deterioration of personal relationships away from work and, yes, even heart disease.

One longitudinal study conducted by Swedish researchers at the Stress Institute in Stockholm found that employees who had managers with the following traits are 60% more likely to suffer coronary heart disease:

  • Their managers were incompetent.
  • They were inconsiderate.
  • They were secretive.
  • They were uncommunicative.

In another 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.

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

Good management is clearly good for the bottom line, morale and turnover, but as it turns out, it’s also good for your cardiovascular health.

How So Called Leaders Fail to Lead

Besides their poor communication skills, lack of transparency, and their myopic vision, there are a number of other key ways that poor managers fail to lead. The list is actually quite long but I have tried to whittle it down here to the most problematic and observable behaviors of toxic bossary. If you recognize more than one of these signs in your boss, it may be time to start browsing the help wanted section of your local newspaper (is there still such a thing?)

1) They Are Narcissists Who Lack Empathy: Practically everyone I know, including myself, has either worked for a narcissistic boss or been exposed to one. You know the type: they are quick to claim credit and quick to assign blame. They treat everyone like they are dispensable, using people for their own gains and then discarding them, either literally or emotionally. Unfortunately, this one trait overrides every other.

Narcissists are fixated on controlling all outcomes, usually through micromanaging behaviors, sometimes subtle and sometimes guileless. They are usually hyper competitive and disingenuous. They will not think twice about firing you on the spot if you fail to agree with their point of view. These workplaces often have an undercurrent of fear because the employees have seen other staff members thrown out at a moments notice and fear the same could happen to them. Worst of all, narcissists lack remorse having very little to no ability to feel empathy for others. Due to their inflated sense of self-importance, the feelings of others are not something that keeps them up at night.

The Fix: Narcissists love flattery due to their over-inflated egos. If you are independently minded and refuse to kiss up to your narcissistic boss, or worse yet, challenge them in any way, your head will invariably be on the chopping block and the guillotine will fall swiftly and decisively. The best advice I can give you is to make a decision (to leave) before one is made for you.

2) They Take Credit For Your Work: A study done by the Society for Human Resource Management found that only 37% of polled employees were happy with how their ideas were received by their supervisors. In Good to Great, Jim Collins highlighted Level 5 leaders who were characterized as being exceptionally modest (which is one reason why few of them were well-known prior to the book). As the old saying goes, modesty is a virtue. Modest leaders share credit, which encourages their colleagues to contribute more effort and feel better about themselves and their help in producing organizational success.

The Fix: If you are the manager-leader, acknowledge your employees’ hard work and ideas and give credit where credit is due, both publicly and privately. Strong, confident, and effective manager-leaders take pride in the success of their people and are happy to sing their praises. It creates a win-win situation and is at the foundation of employee engagement. If you are the employee and your boss is not a narcissist, they may not realize they’re hogging the glory. If this is the case, having a private discussion with your boss may be enough to do the trick.

3) They Are Micromanages: There is nothing good about a practice that will eventually lead to a massive breakdown of confidence and competence in your employees. That’s gthe impact of micromanagement. What may be perceived as short term gains (control and task completion) never outweighs the long term loss of micromanaging otherwise perfectly competent staff. It is likely that they will end up becoming dependent on you, resenting you and eventually leaving you.

The Fix: Consider the reasons why managers micromanage in the first place (ego, insecurity, inexperience, perfectionism, arrogance). Train and coach managers in effective delegation techniques that provide the needed information for job completion without micromanagement. In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey suggests that you delegate results rather than methods. Tell your employee the objective you have for the task at hand and let them go. As long as you get the result you’re looking for and your team member learns along the way, we have a win/win.

4) They Show Favoritism: Poor leaders promote a culture of favoritism, often protecting or promoting those who reinforce their own ego. Once on a job, a manager confessed to me unabashedly (because she was also a narcissist) that she had a favorite on the team. The favorite got special assignments, special perks, and they were friends outside of work (all telltale signs). Not only are these arrangements unfair and unethical, but they kill staff morale. The blindside of their ego also doesn’t realize that the favoritism is rarely reciprocated. The teacher’s pet in my own example left for a better paying job the first chance she got.

The Fix: If you are the one favored, the most professional thing you can do is to not accept the benefits of favoritism. If the shoe is on the other foot, don’t resent the favored employee. After all it’s not their fault. You may have to other colleagues to check your perception or to HR if the situation is particularly egregious. Failing that, be patient, always endeavor to maintain trust, maintain your self-belief and stay positive. 

5) They Are Critical: To put it mildly, these bosses never learned how to give constructive feedback. Criticism is like a productivity poison injected into your veins. It has a negative effect on your self-image and studies have found that your self-image has far more to do with your performance than any other indicator. Many people who face endless criticism from a bad boss wind up quitting – as they should.

The Fix: First, easier said than done but try not to take it personally. Recognize that getting defensive, withdrawing or reciprocating the criticism is counterproductive. Try balancing out the criticism by getting positive feedback from other sources. Find a mentor or two, inside or outside your organization, to give you the constructive feedback you’re not getting from your boss. If you are a manager who is struggling with how to give constructive feedback, attack the problem, not the person; describe observable facts, not opinions or hearsay; and offer specific suggestions for improvement. 

Houston, We Have A Leadership Crisis

Combine too much work, too many demands, too many unrealistic expectations with too little appreciation and too many managers who, well, couldn’t manage their way out of a paper bag, and you have a full fledged leadership crisis.

Companies make crucial mistakes when developing new managers, especially first time, front of the line leaders.

A survey of 1,367 executives by the Institute for Corporate Productivity reported that even among the best, highest performing companies, 66 % reported that they were ineffective at developing leaders and were getting worse.

Often, people are promoted into management roles for all the wrong reasons. The criteria used to promote is subjective, political, and/or not well thought through. Critical training opportunities are overlooked in the crucial first 90 days or not provided at all.

There is no correspondence between power and competency. It is more important than ever that we get leadership development right. The onset of new technologies means all kinds of professions are now in the cross hairs of change and nearly every organization is in the middle of some seismic industry shift.

This radical shift requires radical reformulation of the leadership ethos. Good leadership is a workplace right, not a privilege.

A Final Word

In Stanford Business School Professor Bob Sutton’s brilliant treatise on the subject of leadership aptly titled “The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t,” Professor Sutton makes a well-reasoned argument that these despots, tyrants, and bullies are bad for the people that work with them and for them, and for the organizations that harbor them.

But he is also emphatic about this point: even if assholes are successful, life is too short and too precious to tolerate them.

Personally and professionally, I have yet to come across a workplace where leadership is not broken. Twenty-first-century success depends on good leadership and good leadership depends on trust, integrity, generosity, and empathy, among a slew of other character traits. There’s no team without it. And without team, there is no organization.

Underlying every team’s who-did-what confrontation are universal needs such as respect, competence, social status, and autonomy. Recognizing these deeper needs naturally elicits trust and promotes positive language and behaviors on the part of leaders.

Be weary of bullies, despots, ego-driven narcissists and tyrants. Bosses behaving badly or ineffectively lead to workplace zombies, high levels of stress, burnout, and attrition. McQuaid who’s taking on workplace bullying, one boss at a time, says ridding the workplace of the scourge of bad bosses will save our economy $360 billion in lost productivity each year.

We must demand more and expect better from our leadership. It’s good for the bottom line, good for the customer and good for the economy. Most importantly, it’s good for our health.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate your readership. If you found this article valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.

I also invite you to FOLLOW ME on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

©2019 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A., CPCC

People Simply Empty Out

May 27 , 2019 •  8 minute read • by Saeed

“I recommend you all get fired. It’s a great learning experience.”

Anna Wintour

When you get fired, it can feel earth shattering. But for such a seemingly catastrophic event, getting fired is more common than you might think. Business icons like Steve Jobs, Anna Wintour and Oprah Winfrey were all famously fired at some point in their career. In fact, in 2010 Wintour told a conference audience: “I recommend you all get fired. It’s a great learning experience.”

There are also a whole slew of reasons why the firing might not have even been your fault. In many cases, people get fired not because they are so bad, but precisely because they are so great: Setting reasonable boundaries in a chaotic work environment, raising “elephant in the room” issues that management is afraid to address, working with a small minded boss that falsely perceives you as a threat, challenging convention or delivering such stellar results that you outshine your masters. These can all be hidden reasons for being shown the door. Getting fired from the right place for the right reasons can be a badge of honor. Their loss is your gain.

In 1969, publisher John Martin offered to pay Charles Bukowski $100 each and every month for the rest of his life, on one condition: that he quit his job at the post office and become a full-time writer. 49-year-old Bukowski did exactly that, and just weeks after leaving work finished writing his first book, Post Office, a semi-autobiographical story in which Bukowski’s fictional alter ego, Henry Chinaski, muddles through life as an employee of the US Postal Service. It was published by Martin’s Black Sparrow Press in 1971. 15 years later, Bukowski wrote a letter to Martin and spoke of his joy at having escaped full-time employment.


Hello John:

Thanks for the good letter. I don’t think it hurts, sometimes, to remember where you came from. You know the places where I came from. Even the people who try to write about that or make films about it, they don’t get it right. They call it “9 to 5.” It’s never 9 to 5, there’s no free lunch break at those places, in fact, at many of them in order to keep your job you don’t take lunch. Then there’s OVERTIME and the books never seem to get the overtime right and if you complain about that, there’s another sucker to take your place.

You know my old saying, “Slavery was never abolished, it was only extended to include all the colors.”

And what hurts is the steadily diminishing humanity of those fighting to hold jobs they don’t want but fear the alternative worse. People simply empty out. They are bodies with fearful and obedient minds. The color leaves the eye. The voice becomes ugly. And the body. The hair. The fingernails. The shoes. Everything does.

As a young man I could not believe that people could give their lives over to those conditions. As an old man, I still can’t believe it. What do they do it for? Sex? TV? An automobile on monthly payments? Or children? Children who are just going to do the same things that they did?

Early on, when I was quite young and going from job to job I was foolish enough to sometimes speak to my fellow workers: “Hey, the boss can come in here at any moment and lay all of us off, just like that, don’t you realize that?”

They would just look at me. I was posing something that they didn’t want to enter their minds.

Now in industry, there are vast layoffs (steel mills dead, technical changes in other factors of the work place). They are layed off by the hundreds of thousands and their faces are stunned:

“I put in 35 years…”

“It ain’t right…”

“I don’t know what to do…”

They never pay the slaves enough so they can get free, just enough so they can stay alive and come back to work. I could see all this. Why couldn’t they? I figured the park bench was just as good or being a barfly was just as good. Why not get there first before they put me there? Why wait?

I just wrote in disgust against it all, it was a relief to get the shit out of my system. And now that I’m here, a so-called professional writer, after giving the first 50 years away, I’ve found out that there are other disgusts beyond the system.

I remember once, working as a packer in this lighting fixture company, one of the packers suddenly said: “I’ll never be free!”

One of the bosses was walking by (his name was Morrie) and he let out this delicious cackle of a laugh, enjoying the fact that this fellow was trapped for life.

So, the luck I finally had in getting out of those places, no matter how long it took, has given me a kind of joy, the jolly joy of the miracle. I now write from an old mind and an old body, long beyond the time when most men would ever think of continuing such a thing, but since I started so late I owe it to myself to continue, and when the words begin to falter and I must be helped up stairways and I can no longer tell a bluebird from a paperclip, I still feel that something in me is going to remember (no matter how far I’m gone) how I’ve come through the murder and the mess and the moil, to at least a generous way to die.

To not to have entirely wasted one’s life seems to be a worthy accomplishment, if only for myself.

yr boy,


(Source: Reach for the Sun Vol. 3; via Letters of Note)

3 Powerful Ways To Become More Emotionally Resilient at Work

October 31, 2018 • 7 minute read • by Saeed

“The things you think about determine the quality of your mind.“

–         Marcus Aurelius

Managing your emotions in the workplace is more important today than it ever has been — because today’s workplace is a challenging place.  A controlling boss, demanding clients, competition with your colleagues, insufficient boundaries between your work life and personal life. Recognizing difficulties, and choosing to learn and to grow from them, does not negate their existence or potency, but establishes them as of a distinct facet of one’s life. Most of us are juggling multiple priorities, sometimes with limited resources. The range of emotions we experience at work is enormous but when we manage our emotions, we’re better able to handle the changes and challenges all jobs bring.

This requires emotional well-being.

1.      It starts with self awareness…

Everything starts with self-awareness. You bring your brain to work. You bring your emotions to work. Feelings drive performance. First, identify common causes of stress for you in the workplace from personal experiences. Determine your levels of personal and work-related stress and recognize the ways you may be contributing unintentionally to your own levels of stress.

Begin by identifying aspects of your personal and professional lifestyle choices in relation to your management of emotional well-being. In other words, examine if you have set yourself up to fail or succeed. Learn to differentiate between positive stress and negative stress and your reactions to each. Cultivate interests outside of work, including activities with good friends. Remember, not all satisfaction comes from work accomplishments.

2.      It develops when you reach for mastery…

Next, define emotional mastery, what it might mean to you and its impact on your work life. Identify different feelings in the past and present and your reactions to those feelings. Remember how you managed them. What worked? What didn’t? Differentiate between groups of emotions to better understand how you are feeling and why. Some emotions present an extra challenge when we encounter them at work. Five hard-to-handle emotions that are common in the workplace that warrant attention include frustration, worry or insecurity, anger, feeling “down”, and dislike.

Any number of workplace situations can cause this: limited promotional opportunities that make us feel stuck in a job or a difficult manager who ignores our suggestion for a process improvement. Frustrations, especially those that are chronic, need to be dealt with early, or the feeling can spiral into anger, a much more difficult emotion to control. Evaluate your emotional debt and discover ways to pay it off. Analyze situations so that your emotions do not sabotage the results you want. Recognize thoughts, feelings and behaviors associated with these situations and analyze behavior patterns associated with them so you can begin to head them off at the pass.

3.      It’s put into action when you are intentional…

As you develop awareness and identify patterns, create a personal action plan to implement your learning back at work. Use your mirror listening skills to understand how others are feeling. Identify feelings and the reasons why people feel the way they do. Don’t just think about your positive feelings for others, but act on them. At the same time, recognize when to be assertive in interacting with others but always maintain being respectful. To maintain steadiness and calm, identify rituals that presently exist in your life, classify your rituals according to purpose and stick to them, well, religiously. Learn to express your emotions in appropriate ways.

Be sure to allow yourself to deal with difficult feelings in appropriate ways for the work place. If you feel angry, take the time to consider what may have triggered the feeling and consider actions you could take to diffuse such a situation in the future. You don’t need to pretend you’re not feeling the way you are, but you do need to deal with the emotions so that they do not affect your interactions with others. Give appropriate feedback to clear the air. For example, if a co-worker has said something in a meeting that offended you and this is bothering you, talk with the person about it, preferably soon after the event and in private

Final Word

It is important that your work does not become your life. Maintain support systems outside of work. Talking honestly about your concerns with close friends or your partner can help reduce your anxiety and keep problems in perspective. Choose someone you trust who knows you well enough to give you honest feedback when you need it. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to friends and family, hiring a coach can be a great step in this direction. Talking to a professional coach can help you gain perspective on problems and come up with solutions as well as specific techniques that will help you manage your emotions more effectively. You can also seek support from your company’s employee assistance program (EAP) program, if you have one.

Above all, eat well, get enough sleep, and exercise regularly. If you’re well-rested, well-nourished, and physically strong, you’ll have more energy to meet emotional challenges. This will help keep you “emotionally resilient” and help you feel more in control of your emotions and your life.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate your readership. If you found this article valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.  I also invite you to FOLLOW ME on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

A Special Offer:

In addition to being an organizational development and leadership consultant, I am a personal leadership coach who specializes in helping passionate, thoughtful, creative people like you find your inner leader and live the life you deserve.

As a trained co-active coach, I am currently enrolled in a 6-month professional development program to complete my certification. As part of that training, I need practice clients to try out my new skills, and I am offering a huge (>50%) discount for the first five practice clients.

You can do a free call with me to see if my approach and style would be a good fit for you (and no worries if it’s not – coaching is super personal and I’m happy to recommend you to other coaches that might be a better fit for you).

You can check out my website here. You can also contact me on LinkedIn.

8 Steps to Coaching Your Boss to Success

July 3, 2018 • 5 minute read • by Saeed

“The medium is the message.” ~ Marshall McLuhan

Stop pulling your hair out over your boss.

The frustrations of managing the boss-employee relationship come up again and again in my executive coaching sessions. The best way to approach this challenge is to “coach up.”

When you think about it, we’re all private coaches at least some of the time. So why not be more intentional about coaching to help co-create the experience you want to have in your relationships; including the one with your boss.

Let’s first debunk one myth. Coaching up your boss is not a sneaky way to get what you want. The coaching model doesn’t work unless you actually care about the person you’re working with. It doesn’t work unless you have created a partnership and designed your alliance together. You don’t have to love the person you are coaching, but you do have to respect them and care about their well being.

Coaching up means learning and using coaching techniques to promote an authentic, positive, and productive relationship with your most significant professional relationship: your boss. When used effectively, coaching up can enrich mutual understanding and often reduce frustration and stress. In fact, use the ‘coach approach’ in all aspects of your life, and it will quickly become second nature and help you succeed through tough conversations and difficult relationships inside and outside of work. Here is how:

1.   Start with the right mindset: Suspend negative judgments about the boss, whether these are conscious and crystal clear or faint and subtle. Suspending does not mean permanent deletion but temporary hold. If you do not do this, you risk your judgments getting in the way of being truly present and open.

2.   Be Curious: Coaching is all about unleashing your curiosity. That means beinggenuinely curious and interested in your boss’ point of view. That may be hard to do if you are at odds with your boss but it is imperative to put things on the right footing.

3.   Deploy your attention:  This means listen with your full attention and ask clarifying questions when needed. If you disagree, instead of getting defensive (default reaction) try getting even more curious. Ask questions like “What factors are influencing this decision?” or “Please help me understand this.”

4.   Ask artful questions: Ask open-ended questions rather than questions that are answered with “yes” or “no.” We begin our questions with “how” and “what” as often as we can.

5.   Work with, not against the grain: This means attending to your boss’ communication and learning style.  Some learners are visual while others are auditory. Some like big picture information, while others prefer lots of detail; some like crisp bullet points, others like longer pieces; some like to be told after actions have been taken, and some like to know our every step before and during our tasks. If you don’t know your boss’ preferences, it’s time for a curious conversation!

6.   Work towards a win/win: Negotiation is a key business skill to learn. For example, if your boss wants a daily written report, and you don’t have the time to compose that each day, ask if she would accept a weekly written report instead. She may say yes, and she may say no. If she says no, offer another solution that will meet her needs as well as your own.

7.   Seek common ground: Begin by understanding your boss’ values. It does not mean you have to agree or have the same values but understanding what they are is a good first step to learning to co-exist. This can also begin to create a sense of common ground and shared values, on which to build your future relationship.

8.   Communicate clearly and assertively: The challenge with assertive communication is that it takes some education and a little practice, particularly for those who weren’t taught assertive communication growing up. Many people mistake assertiveness for aggressiveness, but assertiveness is actually the balanced middle ground between aggressiveness and passivity. Communicate your requests and needs clearly and with confidence. The right balance is between being humble and respectful, and confident and assertive.

A final word:

While effective leaders know their options and their plans, they are also open to shifting gears if they receive persuasive new information. They know that they may not always have the full picture of what’s involved in the complex challenges of the organization. This is particularly true when working with bosses who have a much broader organizational perspective than we do. As you continue to coach up, you may improve your opinion and feelings about your boss. Even if negative judgments do creep back in from time to time, we have tools to work toward mutual understanding, if we choose to use them. Coaching up isn’t a magic bullet, but it is a very good way to enrich our partnership with the boss—that most significant of all organizational relationships. In the end, coaching up is about forging a partnership with your boss so you can produce your best work. And there is nothing wrong with that equation.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate your readership. If you found this article valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.  I also invite you to FOLLOW ME on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

A Special Offer:

In addition to being an organizational development and leadership consultant, I am a personal leadership coach who specializes in helping passionate, thoughtful, creative people like you find your inner leader and live the life you deserve.

As a trained co-active coach, I am currently enrolled in a 6-month professional development program to complete my certification. As part of that training, I need practice clients to try out my new skills, and I am offering a huge (>50%) discount for the first five practice clients.

You can do a free call with me to see if my approach and style would be a good fit for you (and no worries if it’s not – coaching is super personal and I’m happy to recommend you to other coaches that might be a better fit for you).

You can check out my website here. You can also contact me on LinkedIn.

The High Cost of Low Morale (and How to Create a More Progressive Workplace)

February 6, 2018 • 6 minute read • by Saeed

“Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.” – Simon Sinek

U.S. workers put in more hours on the job than the labor force of any other industrial nation, including Germany and Japan, where death from overwork has a name: karōshi.

The irony is that more work does not lead to more productivity. Research has found that employee output falls sharply after a 50-hour work-week, and falls off a cliff after 55 hours—so much so that someone who puts in 70 hours produces nothing more with those extra 15 hours, according to a study published last year by John Pencavel of Stanford University.

Longer hours have been connected to low morale increased absenteeism and employee turnover, which cost companies hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

Stress Related Illness

Despite progress in implementing so called ‘work-life balance’ programs, stress-related illness remains a serious concern and health risk in the workplace. In recent studies, The American Institute of Stress found that 80% of workers feel stress on the job but only 20% cited the juggling of work/personal lives as the reason for their stress. The majority cited workload (46%) and people issues (28%) as the source of their stress. Simply put, negative work environments increase stress while positive work environments can become a protective factor for your health long-term. Negative work environments have a “spillover effect,” meaning your work -life also affects your marriage and other intimate relationships.

The Toxic Boss

Studies show that 50% of Americans hate their bosses and an even larger percentage say their boss being fired would make them happier than getting a raise!

The fact is that bad bosses can cause more damage than economic downturns, organizational upheavals, or global business shifts combined. By some estimates, abusive supervision costs companies $23.8 billion a year. But 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. Conversely, the Karolinska study also showed that employees who rated their managers as inspirational, positive and enthusiastic also reported less short-term sick leave.

Call to Action: The Progressive Workplace

Companies must catch on to the high price of their bad hires. They must also recognize the negative impact of regressive policies on their employees. Progressive work-life policies such as flex time, child care and opportunities to care for loved ones are a must. But they must also get better at screening out poisonous personality types and tasking leadership with creating an atmosphere and culture that is conducive to productivity and creativity. The job of leadership is to bring out the best in their people. It is said after all, that people don’t leave jobs, they leave supervisors. Creating a positive and healthy work culture should be in the job description of every manager.

The progressive workplace recognizes the contribution of all employees no matter their position. It offers development opportunities, flexibility and feedback. It offers employees a sense of purpose and is build upon a foundation of trust and collaborative relationships.

A workplace is often a reflection of a company’s true culture. Shifting the culture in a new direction will create higher morale and buy-in and before long, you will see a company full of ‘intrapreneurs’ who think of the organization as their own and take decisions to make things happen. Creating an extraordinary team culture and climate of creativity where talent can flourish is not easy, but it is your mandate as a leader.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.  I also invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

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.



©2018 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

Conflict Resolution Is First Mindset Then Skill Set

December 12, 2017 • 8 minute read • by Saeed

“We must not seek happiness in peace, but in conflict.” ~ Paul Claudel

Competition in our society is presented as the norm. In our recent political environment, competition and conflict has even been used to divide us.

But our species actually relies more heavily on cooperation for survival and self-preservation.

Have you ever watched two children engaged in conflict over a toy? Then you may have observed them appealing to fairness and striving towards resolution and negotiation rather than stoking the fires of conflict.

If you’ve followed my writing for any time, you will know that I like to talk about the unity of mindset and mechanism.

When we humans witness pain and grief, we become sad ourselves; when we are in the company of someone positive, it brightens our day. These are neurological mechanisms that develop empathy for others, which builds trust, a prerequisite for cooperation.

New studies have found that in fact cooperation, not competition, is the normative mindset in nature. This is because it is more energy-efficient and because predators and their prey actually strive to maintain a kind of balanced coexistence. Nature’s bias is towards harmony and balance, not destruction and chaos.

But conflict is inevitable. No relationship is immune. It is a normal, and even healthy, part of relationships.

But when handled in an unhealthy manner, it can cause irreparable damage. In a work context, it can be disastrous.

To manage conflict effectively, first, we have to define it.

What Is Conflict?

Conflict is a disagreement over issues of substance and/or an emotional antagonism. Conflict arises from differences in values, motivations, perceptions, ideas, or desires. Managers and leaders spend a lot of time dealing with conflicts of various forms. In a work context, there are two basic forms of conflict:

  • Substantive Conflict – This involves disagreements over goals, resources, rewards, policies, procedures, and job assignments.
  • Emotional Conflict – This results from feelings of anger, distrust, dislike, fear, and resentment as well as from personality clashes.

Not all conflicts that arise are bad, but not are always good either.

What Causes Conflict?

  • Role Ambiguities – unclear job expectations and other task uncertainties increase the probability that some people will be working at cross purposes, at least some of the time.
  • Resource Scarcities – having to share resources with others and/or compete directly with them for resource allocations creates a potential situation conflict. You can imagine how in society, politicians exploit resource scarcities.
  • Task Dependencies – when individual or groups must depend on what others do to perform well themselves, conflicts often occur.
  • Competing Objectives – when objectives are poorly set or reward systems are poorly designed, individuals and groups may come into conflict by working to one another’s disadvantage.
  • Structural Differentiation – differences in organization structures and in the characteristics of the people staffing them may foster conflict because of incompatible approaches toward work.
  • Unresolved Prior Conflicts – unless a conflict is fully resolved, it may remain latent and later emerge as a basis for future conflicts over the same or related matters

Conflict Resolution Strategies for Leaders (Using Your IQ)

In workplace conflicts, differing needs are often at the heart of bitter disputes. When you can recognize the legitimacy of conflicting needs and become willing to examine them in the context of the larger environment, you can begin to solve conflicts strategically.  As an organizational leader, you can use various approaches to deal with conflicts between individuals or groups. These may include:

  • Appeal to Goals – You can focus the attention on one mutually desirable end state; i.e., shared goals. The appeal to higher-level shared goals offers all parties a common frame or reference against which to analyze differences and reconcile disagreements.
  • Change the People – Replacing or transferring one or more of the conflicting parties, conflicts caused by poor interpersonal relationships can be eliminated.
  • Change the Environment – Facilities, work space, or workflows can be rearranged to separate conflicting parties and reduce the opportunity for conflict to exist between the parties.
  • Change the Structure – Using liaison personnel, special task forces, cross-functional teams, and the matrix form of organizational management, can change interaction patterns and assist in conflict reduction.
  • Change Reward Systems – Creating systems that reward co-operation can encourage behaviors and attitudes and promote teamwork and reduce conflict.
  • Change Policies and Procedures – A change in policies and procedures can redirect behavior in ways that minimize the likelihood of known conflict-prone situations.
  • Train People – As a proactive measure, you can prepare people to communicate and work more effectively in situations where conflict is likely by training them in interpersonal skills.
  • Throw Resources at the Problem – You can use this strategy to resolve conflicts whose antecedents lie in the competition for scarce resources. Although it might be expensive, it removes all reasons for conflicts in the future.

Conflict Resolution Strategies for Individuals (Using Your EQ)

The ability to resolve conflicts positively is a key emotional intelligence skill. Conflict resolution is both mindset and skill set. Attitude towards the conflict and towards the relationship is a key mindset component while listening is a key skill set component. When you enter a conflict with a positive attitude and when you listen for where the pain points are for the other person, you are a quarter of the way towards resolving the conflict.

  • Self Awareness – As with most things, success in conflict resolution starts with self awareness. If you don’t know how you feel or why you feel that way, you won’t be able to communicate effectively or smooth over disagreements. If you are out of touch with your feelings or so stressed that you can only pay attention to a limited number of emotions, you won’t be able to understand your own needs. Your ability to handle conflict depends on being connected to your feelings and your values.
  • Social Awareness – The most important information exchanged during conflicts and arguments is often communicated nonverbally. You can avoid many confrontations and resolve arguments and disagreements through effective communication. When people are upset, the words they use rarely convey the issues and needs at the heart of the problem.  Listen carefully for what may be behind the words. Clarify. Restate. Reflect. Validate. Use empathy to develop your awareness of others.
  • Self-Management – One of the key components of conflict management is the ability to self-regulate. The capacity to remain relaxed and focused in tense situations is a vital aspect of conflict resolution. Try not to overreact to difficult situations. By remaining calm it will be more likely that others will consider your viewpoint.
  • Relationship Management – During conflict it’s easy to forget about the other person or to disregard the importance of the relationship. Rupture in relationships is to be expected. But when there is rupture, there should also be an attempt to repair. Sometimes the best way to fix conflict is to apologize. This requires putting others before yourself. Know when to let something go. If you can’t come to an agreement, agree to disagree. It takes two people to keep an argument going. If a conflict is going nowhere, you can choose to disengage and move on.

 A Final Word…

To be truly effective at conflict resolution, you have to make the relationship your priority. Maintaining and strengthening the relationship, rather than “winning” the argument, should always be your first priority. Focus on the present. Listen. Pick your battles. Conflicts can be draining, so it’s important to consider whether the issue is really worthy of your time and energy. Be willing to forgive. Resolving conflict is impossible if you’re unwilling or unable to forgive. Resolution lies in releasing the urge to punish, which can never compensate for your losses and only adds to your injury by further depleting and draining you of vital resources. It may mean that you lose the argument. It may mean that you give up being right. It may also mean that you end up a happier human being.

Don’t fight it. Just trust me.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…a simple call to action…

I really appreciate that you are reading my content. I am thrilled to share my time, expertise and knowledge with you and to know it’s of value. Please likecomment, and share the article. I consider that my ‘tip jar’ that lets me know I’m providing value to you. Also, feel free to post it on your blog or email it to whomever you believe would benefit from reading it (with the proper credit of course).

Last thing…

If you find this content helpful and if it helps you think a little more deeply about topics of interest, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or on Medium or on my Blog.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal, professional, and organizational development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. I also just love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.



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

How Emotionally Intelligent People Manage Conflict

November 10, 2017 • 8 minute read • by Saeed

“Conflict is the beginning of consciousness.” ~ M. Esther Harding

As emotional intelligence gains more traction as a 21st century skill in the workplace, more research is beginning to emerge that demonstrates that individuals with high emotional intelligence prefer to seek collaborative solutions when confronted with conflict. The implications for human resource development will continue to be examined and be of significance in productivity and organizational change management.

In the meantime, let’s figure out how to deal with the pain in the neck sitting in the next cubicle over. I’m kidding of course. It’s actually important to remember that everyone you encounter is doing the best they can from their own level of consciousness.

Let’s get started.

First: Manage the Emotions

Conflict arises from differences. When a conflict triggers strong feelings, a deep personal and relational need is at the core of the problem. To be successful at conflict management, you have to start by being successful at managing your own emotions.

Therefore, it makes sense to use the frame of emotional intelligence to resolve conflict. Daniel Goleman has identified the building blocks of emotional intelligence to be: Self Awareness, Self Regulation, Social Awareness, and Relationship Management.

In a conflict resolution context, that might look like this:

·        Self-Awareness – Manage stress while remaining calm to accurately read and interpret verbal and nonverbal communication. Be aware of your own body language. The capacity to remain relaxed and focused in tense situations is vital to successful conflict resolution.  Staying calm and centered also helps you think through better solutions.

·        Self-Regulation – Control your emotions and behavior so you can articulate your needs in such a way that they are heard by others. Although self-regulation may seem simple on the surface, many people ignore, sedate or suppress strong emotionslike anger, sadness, and fear. This is not the same as self-regulation. Self regulation is about thinking before acting and seeing the good in others rather than the bad. It is about the ability to calm yourself down when angry and cheer yourself up when sad. It is about being flexible and adaptable.

·        Social Awareness – Pay attention to the feelings being expressed as well as the spoken words of the other. Pay attention to the social context. Pay attention to body language. The most important information conveyed in a conflict context is often non-verbal. When you’re in the middle of a conflict, paying close attention to the other person’s nonverbal signals may help you figure out what the other person is really saying, respond in a way that builds trust, and get to the root of the problem

·        Relationship Management – Be aware and respectful of differences by avoiding disrespectful words and actions which will help you resolve the conflict more expediently. Maintaining and strengthening the relationship, rather than “winning” the argument, should always be your first priority. Resolving conflict is impossible if you’re unwilling or unable to forgive or to let go. Be respectful of the other person and his or her point of view.

If you are out of touch with your feelings or so stressed that you can only pay attention to a limited number of emotions, you won’t be able to understand your own needs or the needs of another.

Second: Manage the Situation

Managing conflict takes skilled communication, negotiation, and sometimes mediation. A timely response to conflict situations is essential in finding solutions before conflicts are over inflated and become cancerous cells in the body of the organization (or frankly in the body of the person).

Conflict, handled well, can be a learning experience. Conflict handled poorly, can have a deleterious effect on the working relationship of colleagues.

To manage the situation use this 6 step process:

1.      Acknowledge – First acknowledge the conflict. Acknowledge that something is challenging you in order to open the door to creating a solution.

2.      Affirm – Let individuals express their feelings. Some feelings of anger and/or hurt usually accompany conflict situations. Before any kind of problem-solving can take place, these emotions should be affirmed.

3.      Attribute – Don’t immediately get out the blame thrower. Find out exactly the root of the problem – what it’s attributable to – not whose fault it was. There is a difference. For example, you may find that it was something in the environment that caused the problem and not the other person. If that is the case, an entirely different type of solution may be needed.

4.      Accept –The goal of conflict resolution is not to decide which person is right or wrong; the goal is to reach a solution that everyone can accept. Look first for needs and common ground. Find solutions to satisfy needs. Problem-solve by generating multiple alternatives.

5.      Agree – Always work towards common areas of agreement, no matter how small. Agree on the problem. Agree on the procedure to follow. Agree on worst fears. Agree on some small changes to give an experience of success. Whether small, medium or larger, be sure you get real agreement from everyone.

6.      Act – Finally, put a plan of action in place. Determine which actions will be taken by whom and when and how often. Make sure all parties buy into the action plan. Maintain accountability to the agreed upon actions.

Third: Manage the Solution

If you’ve gotten this far in the conflict management process, you’ve done the major part of the work and you should celebrate and congratulate yourself. But don’t count your chickens before they hatch. You do have to manage the solution too because while there is always good momentum behind the initial agreed upon actions, people have a tendency to quickly slip into old habits. Determine follow-up you will take to monitor actions. You may want to schedule a follow-up meeting in a couple of weeks to determine how things are going. Don’t stockpile issues and grievances in the meantime. Deal with issues as they arise; one at a time. Make sure your responses are healthy and constructive. Finally, determine in advance what you’ll do if the conflict goes unresolved.

Final Word

Conflict avoidance is not a learning mentality. We can actually grow from conflict by becoming conscious about our own participation, our own triggers, and our own ego. Conflict can be good for us.

But for the final word, I want to keep it real.

You may not be able to negotiate your way through every conflict. Some people are simply too stubborn to reason with and sometimes you have to give yourself that reality check. For example, passive-aggressive people are one of the most difficult personality types when it comes to conflict. Their silence, a sign of their passive resistance to resolution, is a non-starter. Some people have learned to only deal with conflict using explosive, angry, hurtful, and resentful reactions. Their ego is so fragile that they must win at all costs. Loss of relationship to these people is an afterthought. In such instances, a neutral outside facilitator (or mediator depending on the severity of the conflict) may be needed . In some cases the conflict becomes a performance issue, and may become a topic for coaching sessions, performance appraisals, or disciplinary action. There are also times when it’s best to cut the cord and move on.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

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.



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

The What, How, and Why of Change Management

November 2, 2017 • 4 minute read • by Saeed

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” ~ Socrates

What is Change Management?

Broadly speaking, all change, whether it’s strategic organizational change or unanticipated personal change is about transitioning individuals, teams, and/or organizations from a current state to a desired future state in order to fulfill or implement a vision and/or strategy.

For leaders, change management is about empowering individuals to accept and embrace changes, both planned and unanticipated, in their current environment.

Change management is the continuous process of aligning with the set of external conditions creating the necessity for change—and doing so more responsively and effectively.

How Does Change Management Work?

Change management means a systematic approach and application of the mechanisms that support the change process. It means defining and adopting specific strategies, tactics, methods, activities, and approaches for embracing, implementing and dealing with change. Common obstacles to change include resistance, poor communication, insufficient capacity, lack of adequate resources, lack of proper engagement, and poor management of the overall change effort.

1.      It Starts with a Vision. Whether change is prompted by external or internal conditions , it must start with a vision. The vision will assist in motivating those impacted to advance their thought and actions in right direction.

2.      It Takes the right Strategies. The right strategy will ensure that the vision is achieved. Strategies provide the “roadmap” for achieving the vision. Without a strategic plan and vision, the change effort will fail.

3.      It Takes Clarity about Roles and Responsibilities. Being crystal clear about who is doing what, where, when , how and why is critical to the change effort. That means clarity on expectations, standards, scopes, and specific role of each contributor.

4.      It Takes Inclusion. Don’t even think about moving forward with your change effort without involving the key stakeholders. Stakeholders are those who will be impacted by the change. It is critical that they are involved in the process and understand how the change initiative will impact their current (and future) state.

Why Are We Even Doing This?

As leaders, our opinions, perspectives, and biases of the change process will have an impact on our efforts to support and guide our teams. Therefore it is critical that we understand, support, sponsor, and steward the change process to success.

Asking the right questions will help leaders assess the right approaches to change.

1.      Do we know the changes, their impact, rationale and benefits?

2.      Can we articulate the need for change?

3.      Is this the right time for change?

4.      How will the change impacting existing workloads?

5.      How can we achieve some early wins?

6.      Are there other organizational or sector change efforts that will impact our change effort?

7.      Can we combine forces, collaborate and coordinate with those efforts and integrate communications, goals, strategies and resources?

8.      Can we learn from past change efforts – what did or did not work well?

9.      What level of trust exists between groups and how will it impact the change effort?

10.  How can we make the messages clear, interesting, and engaging?

Communication Tips

·        When the decision has been made, emphasize that change will happen.

·        Explain the benefits but also acknowledge the negatives of the change.

·        Provide as much detail as possible to minimize rumors.

·        Acknowledge when you do not have the answers. Do not guess.

·        Update your team regularly on the progress of the change.

·        Articulate the business rationale and the events leading up to it.

·        Clarify the vision and specific change plans.

·        Ensure consistency about the message across the organization.


Change management is complex and leaders have a specific role in the process. Whether you are embarking on a new change initiative or considering change within your functional area, remember that change is a fast-breaking story: Sometimes you’ll hear the news from management; sometimes you’ll hear it from employees. You may be tempted to stay silent but even your silence will be interpreted – and probably not favorably. Gaps will be filled by the grapevine.  When you don’t have answers, don’t give answers but as a leader, force yourself to the front lines and manage the change. This will boost morale and ensure long term success.

Good Luck.

Hate your boss? Learn to Manage Up!

September 21, 2017 •  6 minute read • by Saeed

“An employee’s motivation is a direct result of the sum of interactions with his or her manager. ”

-Bob Nelson

Sorry people, in this post, we’re going to get real. In fact, this is less blog post and more intervention for those of you out there who just can’t get along with your boss.

If you feel you are more intelligent and gifted than those above you, then this article is for you. What you need to know is that there are just some truths you can’t avoid when it comes to the wild and wacky world of work. And it doesn’t get more real than when you have to deal with the boss you despise.

Whether you like it or not, you chose this ship (no one forced you to take that job) and it’s now up to you to navigate the murky waters in which you swim. If you didn’t already know, the most significant factor impacting your job satisfaction is your relationship with your boss. Managing up doesn’t mean sucking up but it does require you to tap into your higher self. The best way to do that is to, well, suck it up and face some cold hard truths.

Cold hard truth #1: Your are expendable. Remember, the most advanced technical skills and content knowledge do not supersede the relationship you have with your boss. That’s a harsh place to start but I felt I needed to first stick your face in a bucket of ice water and wake you up. Now you’re ready to hear the rest.

Cold hard truth #2: Most managers are either overextended, overwhelmed, or downright incompetent. Yup, I said it. Incompetent. That’s because they never learned the art and science of management. They were just thrown into it. While it may be hard, the best approach here is empathy and compassion. Seriously.

Cold hard truth #3: Even if your boss has some serious shortcomings, it’s in your best interest, and it’s your responsibility, to make the relationship work. That’s right. It’s your responsibility, not theirs. Once you get your head around that, you’ll be able to walk the higher ground. And walk the higher ground, you must.

Cold hard truth #4: Your job is to support your boss’ success. Whatever you actual job may be, that’s your real job. It’s not to drag them down, show them up, or step over or around them. This is your mission and you have no choice but to accept it if you want to be successful at your job.

Cold hard truth #5: As much as you’d like to see them crawl back under the rock from which they came, you are going to have to muster up some EQ and nurture your relationship. Get to know them as a person. I’m not saying go ice skating together but you do need to have a sense of them as a person, their motivations and their struggles. Simple questions about them as a human being can a go a long way to building empathy for them as a person.

Cold hard truth #6: Understand their goals. By understanding their goals, you’ll be able to calibrate what you do to what their desired outcomes and objectives are for themselves and the company. Everything you do is directly tied to that.

Cold hard truth #7: It is up to you to find a way to be a genuine source of help. That means being the most effective employee you can be and  creating value for your boss and the company. It doesn’t matter that you hate your job. Remember, you chose your job, it did not choose you.

Cold hard truth #8: You have to educate them on You. Research shows that great managers uncover what’s unique about each person on the team and then exploit it (I mean that in a good way). Instead of having the arrogant expectation that they should know you, help them uncover what’s great about you.  Tell them your strengths, your struggles, how you deal with pressure and conflict and what lights your fire. Help them help you.

Cold hard truth #9: Your boss is not a prescient mind-reader. Learn to communicate proactively and to anticipate their needs. Ask what they need or better yet, do what they need before they have to ask you to do it. Align your needs with their goals. Find their preferred method of communication and use it. If they like to read bullet points, don’t write long rambling emails that frustrate them. Even if they don’t ask, keep them updated on your projects and progress. And if your boss is a micromanager, the more outgoing information you convey, they less they will ask about what’s happening.

Cold hard truth #10: You may have to help your boss become a better leader. I know that’s so hard to swallow when you think or know you could do it better yourself. John Baldoni, author of “Lead Your Boss: The Subtle Art of Managing Up” says that great leaders have established the three Cs necessary to become an influential leader – competency, credibility and confidence. Your boss may lack one or all three. Help to support their weaknesses and you will reap the rewards.

Before you go…

Remember how at the top we acknowledged that you are more intelligent and gifted than those above you.  Well, maybe you are. And maybe, you should give your boss some credit for that. The best leaders make every attempt at building their organizations with people who are brighter and more talented than they are. This is a laudable practice that should be admired by workers, not resented.

Despite your best efforts to build a good relationship, there may come a time when you’ve lost your boss’s trust. It happens. And while it may take some diligent effort on your part, it is possible to put the relationship back on track.  Be mindful. Be grateful. Be patient. Have a good attitude. Be positive. Do the best job you can do. If your work doesn’t speak for itself, or if it does and isn’t being recognized, rather than act out, move on honorably and look for a better fit.

Good luck.


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.

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

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.



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