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  • Writer's pictureDrDavanaPilczuk

Bad bosses are bad for your health

We are all familiar with the phrase ‘a happy wife means a happy life’ and science has shown that statement to be true. Numerous studies have found that the person we marry has a greater impact on our health and stress level than probably anyone else in our lives. But did you know that your boss is also another crucial person who can have a profound impact on your health? And if you consider how many decades most of us are in the workforce, working for the right person can make all the difference in the world to our productivity levels, physical and mental health states.

One 2009 study, performed by the Stress Institute at Stockholm University, examined over 3,000 working men over 10 years and found that people who had bad managers also had higher rates of chest pain, heart attack and even death. Men ages 19 to 70 years had their hearts checked at work between 1992 and 1995.

In 2003, hospital records for heart disease were checked for heart disease illness. The people working for toxic managers had an increase in heart disease risk by 25 percent. According to the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, there was a cumulative health effect: the longer the employee worked for a bad boss, the worse the health effects. People working for a bad manager for more than four years had a 64 percent higher risk of heart disease.

It turns out how we are lead has an impact on our motivation, cooperation, number of sick days we take, negative feelings and even our risk of heart disease. If the people we follow are good to us, then we feel valued, happy, more productive and apparently, healthier. And if that leadership style is one of abusiveness, laissez-faire or passive-avoidant, our elevated stress levels can increase our chance for heart disease, frustration in work performance and a decline in our output.

Incompetent boss

There are a few key negative behaviors to be aware of in managers, since these have all been tied to higher levels of stress in employees. The first stressful type of manager is the incompetent boss. Think Michael Scott from “The Office.” No one knows exactly how or why this person is in a leadership position, but their incompetence puts added stress on the team to carry the work load. People are, therefore, forced to produce more or play clean-up in order to keep the ship afloat.

Mean manager

Another bad boss is the mean manager. They might scream, criticize, be punitive, but whatever their MO is, it’s usually to be mean. Humans do not do well in environments where they constantly live in fear, and eventually they will stop contributing, speaking up or giving their best. The goal at work moves from contribution to self-preservation.

Secretive, vague bosses

The final two bad bosses work more insidiously. The secretive boss withholds information, only sharing kibbles with their team, which makes people feel hesitant and unsure of what to do. The other boss is more of the type who is vague with goals and expectations, which also leaves people constantly questioning themselves and in a state of angst.

If you find you are on the receiving end of these bad leaders, seriously consider if the situation is fixable or if it warrants a more drastic approach. The job market is in need of good workers, so you have the upper hand if you do decide to leave. And before starting a new job, ask what the turnover rate is, since turnover is often a key indicator of dysfunctional leadership. Give to the places you work, but don’t sell your life span short just for a pay check.

A special thank you to our great boss and friend Heather Henley, who has managed the Accent columnist team for years. Thank you for being understanding, patient with deadlines, and always having a sense of humor. You will be sorely missed.

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