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Is Your Bad Boss Actually ‘Killing You Slowly’?

By Kevin on December 28, 2016 in Entrepreneurship, leadership
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Working for a bad boss may actually be killing you slowly.

Hard to believe?

In a massive 10-year study of 3,122 men, Swedish researchers found that working for a bad manager was linked to an increase in incidents of unstable angina and heart attacks, resulting in hospitalization or death. This correlation between a bad boss and ischemic heart disease held firm even with adjustments made for smoking, exercise, BMI, cholesterol, diabetes, physical workload, education, and income.

Photo: Pixabay/PourquoiPas

Photo: Pixabay/PourquoiPas

Using language that is typically reserved for pharmaceutical trials, researcher Anna Nyberg of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm said, “This is the first study to provide evidence of a dose-response relationship between concrete managerial behaviors and objectively assessed heart disease among employees.” In other words, there was a direct correlation: the longer you work for a bad boss, the higher your risk of hospitalization or death.

5 Questions To Rate Your Boss

So the big question is, “what makes for a bad manager”? Or to put it another way, is your boss slowly killing you?

The Swedish researchers used a 10-question employee questionnaire to determine the quality of the managers in question. The five statements below, when answered in the negative, were shown to be the most predictive of the increased cardiovascular risk from poor management:

  1. My boss gives me the information I need.
  2. My boss is good at pushing through and carrying out changes.
  3. My boss explains goals for our work so that I understand what they mean for my particular part of the task.
  4. I have sufficient power in relation to my responsibilities.
  5. I am praised by my boss if I have done something good.

Note that these questions reveal the true power of leadership in the areas of communication, expectations and alignment, autonomy and recognition. All drivers of employee engagement which I refer to often.

Having Low Control In Your Job Increases Risk of Death by 15.4%

More recently, researchers at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business and the University of Iowa found that working in a high stress job where you have little control can shorten your life.

In 2004, researchers surveyed 2,400 people in Wisconsin about their jobs and then tracked their health into the year 2011. Half of the study participants were women.

Assistant Professor Erik Gonzalez-Mule shared the findings in an interview with Health Day, “Having low control over a stressful job was associated with a 15.4 percent increase in the likelihood of death compared to having low control over a low-stress job.”

But what would be the cause of this? According to Gonzalez-Mule, “The idea is that people find ways to cope with stress, like engaging in unhealthy behaviors such as smoking, having a sedentary lifestyle or eating unhealthy foods.”

Study Shows Dissatisfied Workers 2.4 Times More Likely To Die

In another study, six researchers in Finland wanted to see if your job can kill you. Of course they wouldn’t describe their study that way. They would say they wanted to investigate the links between certain work elements and cholesterol, body mass index (BMI), and cardiovascular mortality (i.e., death from heart attack, stroke or other heart disease). Like I said, they want to know if your job could kill you. They began the study in 1973 and surveyed 812 employees and conducted health checks after five and ten years. Then they watched the participants until 2001—27 years from the start of the study—to see who died from a cardiac event.

In results published in the esteemed British Medical Journal, they revealed that employees who were dissatisfied with their compensation, recognition, and career opportunities had a BMI that was 0.6 higher than those who were satisfied with their rewards. This equates to about an extra five pounds on a person of average height. More significant was the finding that workers who were dissatisfied were also 2.4 times more likely to die from a cardiac event.

What Can You Do?

As the New Year approaches it’s a time when we think about our aspirations and our goals. How does your boss score on the five questions above? How much control do you have in your job? Is 2017 the year you will find a new boss?

Life is too short to be unhappy at work. And working for a bad boss will make it shorter.

Kevin Kruse is the author of Employee Engagement 2.0 and a top leadership speaker. Join his newsletter at kevinkruse.com.

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