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Business - Written by on Thursday, November 27, 2008 16:39 - 3 Comments

Is your bad boss ‘killing you’?

On a separate but related note to my post on performance reviews, according to a Swedish study published in the Occupational and Environmental Medicine journal, working for a bad boss could increase your chances of heart disease, stroke and other stress related illnesses like depression and insomnia. The ten-year study, (only conducted with men) showed that out of the 3,122 candidates studied, there were 74 cases of fatal and non-fatal heart attacks, angina and stroke. Conversely, employees with good bosses had lower risk of heart attack.

Although these findings are concerning, there are a few things that don’t quite make sense to me. The study was conducted over a period of ten years. If someone is at a job with a ‘bad boss’ and it’s affecting them to a point where their health is declining (with a possibility of death) – could they not choose one of the following three options?

  1. look for a new job
  2. ask to switch departments
  3. try talking to their boss about their concerns

These suggestions are in lieu of letting it escalate to a point where you would have a heart attack. Secondly, work is just work. Is it possible that some people just take things too seriously and are ‘bringing work home’ with them? Home should be your sanctuary, somewhere you can relax and unwind. I guess it’s easier said than done, but perhaps if those men (I refer to men specifically since the study was male based) kept their work at work they could have improved their health. Are these generational differences in the workplace? I’m assuming that the study candidates were from an older generation since the study was conducted over ten years. Would someone in, say the Net Generation or even Generation X stick it out like the individuals in the study did? Or would they go look for other opportunities.


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Nov 27, 2008 16:56

Workplace stress is set to be the next litigation epidemic in the Western world. However, the doctors seem to be siding with the employers (for the time being) and unwilling to diagnose any specific symptom as stress related.

Marina Modlin
Nov 29, 2008 14:38

I wonder why the study was limited to men only…

Also, I wonder if the higher instance of heart disease is due to the personality type (those who are unable to leave a bad boss for 10 years) rather than the bad boss himself.

Nov 29, 2008 22:46

>could they not choose one of the following three options?

1. look for a new job
2. ask to switch departments
3. try talking to their boss about their concerns

Some people are afraid of #1. Maybe it’s not easy in their area. Maybe they have tenure. Maybe their town is small.

#2 can be surprisingly difficult (I’ve tried). And when your bad boss finds out, the proverbial hits the whirling blades!

#3. Have you had a bad boss? They cannot be reasoned with. They cannot be “talked to” about yurs concerns. And HR departments tend to side with the boss.

Taking work home with you is often not the problem with a bad boss. The boss is the 8 hours a day problem. What goes home is the headache, the upset stomach, the clenched teeth…

Yes, you would hope that someone with a toxic boss would find a way out… but consider all the other forms of toxic relationship. Sometimes, people need help getting help.

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