Bad Bosses are Killers


A few weeks ago I created a new category here, “Neuromanagement,” which fits a couple of posts I’ve got simmering on the back burner. While those are geared toward the positive use of neuro-techniques in managing and hiring, there’s a breaking news story about the dangerous physiological effects of bad management. Bloomberg writer Frances Schwartzkopff reports:

Employees who say their managers are passive, inconsiderate and uncommunicative were more likely to suffer from heart attacks, according to a Swedish study that looked at 3,122 working men’s health records. Those who thought well of their bosses were less likely to get heart disease, and the higher their opinion, the lower the risk, researchers found.

The study, published today by the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, is the first to establish a clear link between management style and employee heart health, and to show the effects over time. Earlier research shows poor management causes employee burnout, depression and high blood pressure.

“You should take it seriously that you are stressed due to your manager,” said lead author Anna Nyberg, a psychologist at Karolinska Institute’s Department of Public Health Sciences in Stockholm, in a Nov. 24 telephone interview. “If you have a good boss, you have at least a 20 percent lower risk and if you stay with your boss for four years, you have at least a 39 percent lower risk.” [From Bad Bosses Raise Heart Attack Risk for Men, Researchers Find.]

While I’ve never doubted the extensive effects of what’s happening in the mind on a person’s health (think about the very real placebo effect!), this research is still a bit surprising in the sharp contrast between positive and not-so-positive work environments. My guess is that few bosses who create a stressful work environment will actually reform. Rather, they’ll take the approach that only wimpy workers get stressed, and that they should just “suck it up.” If you happen to work in this kind of environment, it might be time to dust off that resume for your own long-term good. “My boss is killing me!” is no longer just a metaphor.

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— who has written 957 posts on Neuromarketing.

Roger Dooley writes and speaks about marketing, and in particular the use of neuroscience and behavioral research to make advertising, marketing, and products better. He is the primary author at Neuromarketing, and founder of Dooley Direct LLC, a marketing consultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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4 responses to "Bad Bosses are Killers" — Your Turn

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martha 29. November 2008 at 3:45 am

That’s really nice article regarding the bad bosses and the physiological effects….
Thanks for sharing with us….

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mark 29. November 2008 at 4:13 pm

If you read the study it’s not that clear cut. They show a correlation but not causation, they mention that it’s male only, and that they aren’t using a rating scale that corrects for individual factors. It says more about the people in the study than the managers. At best, the results are an indication that more research could be done on the topic.

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Armin 4. December 2008 at 7:15 am

Off to read the entire article right now, but thanks for putting this up. Interesting to note that poor management may lead to depression and burnout.

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Rukhsara 6. December 2008 at 11:42 am

Thanks for sharing this finding, i got interested whether there’s any way of defining good and bad boss at the first interview or first day at work.

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