Bad bosses are bad for your health

Jun 24 2003 by Brian Amble Print This Article

A study has shown that unfair bosses can drive up their employees' blood pressure, increasing their long-term risks of a heart attack or stroke.

The research, published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, found that employees’ blood pressure rose when they were managed by someone they considered to be unreasonable.

A team from Buckinghamshire Chilterns University College carried out tests on 28 female healthcare assistants. The researchers measured their blood pressure every 30 minutes for 12 hours over three working days.

Thirteen of the care assistants were supervised by two people - one perceived as more unfair than the other. The other 15 were either supervised by just one person, or by two whose working manner was viewed in the same way.

The researchers found that blood pressure readings rose among the first group when they were working for a boss they considered to be unfair.

The rise was such that it represented 16 per cent increased risk of coronary heart disease and a 38 per cent increased risk of a stroke.

The researchers argue that their findings provide clear evidence that bosses who treat their staff unfairly can cause stress, and undermine their health and wellbeing.

A literature review published in the January 2003 edition of the same journal found a clear correlation between sickness absence and poor management style. It suggested that levels of sickness absence could both be improved by increasing participation in decision making and problem solving, increasing support and feedback, and improving communications

Another study of more than 4,000 employees working in hospitals in Finland also found that male workers classed as having low justice in 'decision making procedures' had a 41 per cent higher risk of sickness absence than their high justice equivalents. Among women, low justice workers had a sickness absence rate 12 per cent higher.

The pattern was similar for workers on the receiving end of poor 'interpersonal treatment'. In both sexes, low justice workers were more likely to be dissatisfied with their health.