Manager Try to Inspire You? She May Harm You, Instead

This may surprise you.  I know it did me.

But singing the company song in a circle or going to camp with your colleagues, like they used to do at IBM,  may just not be good for you.

They did it to instill spirit in workers, but now a new study says inspirational managers may actually harm employees.

"Managers who inspire their staff to perform above and beyond the call of duty may actually harm their employees’ health over time, according to researchers from the University of East Anglia," reports.

The findings suggest that constant pressure from these "transformational leaders" may increase sickness absence levels among employees. They also indicate that some vulnerable employees in groups with transformational leaders may, in the long term, have increased sickness absence rates if they ignore their ill-health and frequently show up for work while ill, known as "presenteeism."

Transformational leaders are defined as those who encourage their employees to perform above and beyond the call of duty, who formulate a clear vision of what is to be achieved by the team, and encourage employees to seek out challenges at work and engage in proactive problem solving. They also function as role models and consider individual employees' needs.

It hasn't always been seen as bad.  Transformational leadership has previously been associated with positive employee well-being, better sleep quality, fewer depressive symptoms and reduced general absenteeism in the short term. 

However, the new study suggests that a transformational leader who encourages their group to make an extra effort at work may exacerbate sickness absence, as high levels of presenteeism may result in reduced opportunities for recovery along with the risk of spreading contagious conditions, such as the common cold, in the long term.

“It is possible that high-performance expectations pose a risk to both healthy and vulnerable employees and the motivational aspects of transformational leadership may backfire,” says Karina Nielsen, professor of work and organizational psychology.   “Transformational leaders may promote self-sacrifice of vulnerable employees for the greater good of the group by encouraging them to ignore their illnesses and exert themselves. This can lead to increased risks of sickness absence in the long term."

She adds, “Such leaders express values to perform above and beyond the call of duty, possibly at the expense of employees’ health because they have a self-interest in demonstrating low sickness absence rates in their work groups. This pattern may be a particular problem in organizations where managers are rated according to their ability to control sickness absence levels.”

Pretty funny.  The study was done on postal workers.

So the next time your boss tells you it's time for the company song, tell him you can't, you might get a headache.


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