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Unfair Bosses May Be Hazardous to Your Health
by Barbara Bartlein, The People Pro

Caution: Unfair Boss May Be Hazardous to Your Health

Working for an unfair boss may not only be unpleasant, it may actually be hazardous to your health. A new study demonstrates a higher risk of heart attack or stroke over the long term for those who work for bosses that are considered unreasonable in their demands.

In a new study, published in the current issue of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, researchers asked 28 female health care assistants to rate the style of their nurse supervisors based on whether they agreed with statements, such as "I am treated fairly by my supervisor," and "My supervisor encourages discussion before making a decision."

The assistant's blood pressure readings were then taken every half hour for 12 hours over three working days. The study found that the subjects experienced a 15 mmHg rise in their systolic pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading) and a 7 mmHg increase in their diastolic (the bottom number) on the days that they worked for an unfair boss vs. the days they worked for a boss they admired and favored.

Researchers found that the more unfair and unreasonable the boss was perceived, the higher the blood pressure readings of the participants. Interestingly, blood pressure actually dropped on days that the assistants worked for bosses they liked.

"Supervisors are in a position of relative power within the working environment. Their interactional style may have the potential to influence their supervisees' well being, either positively or negatively," writes researcher N. Wagner.

This additional workplace stress could be significant for worker's health as an increase of 10 mmHg systolic and 5 mmHg diastolic blood pressure is associated with a 16% higher risk of heart disease and a 38% higher risk of stroke.

While this was one of the first studies to look at how the workplace affects overall heart health and cardiovascular risks, it is not likely to be the last. As health care costs continue to escalate, employers can no longer ignore the tyrant supervisor who creates a toxic work environment.

Employees also need to take steps to protect themselves. Some steps you can take:

• Never work for someone you don't admire and respect. Not only is there no opportunity to learn, it will be an exercise in frustration. If you have no choice but to stay in a negative environment due to economic factors, at least seek out a positive colleague and mentor who can serve as a resource.

• Evaluate your energy level when you enter the building. Do you feel eager and excited when you enter the building to go to work, or does the life go out of you as soon as you walk in the door? Pay attention to how you are feeling and it can be a good indicator whether the supervisor and even the job is the right fit.

• Counteract negative stress by an exercise program. Engage in cardio activity at least three times per week. It not only improves cardiovascular health, it will reduce your stress level and increase your energy. It's easy to make just schedule it like everything else.

• Avoid toxic people. At work and at home. It's easy to know if you are around "energy suckers," as the longer you are with them the more exhausted you feel. They are often chronic complainers and see the negative side of life. Cultivate relationships that are energizing and fun. Life is too short.

FREE E-mail newsletter, sign on at Barbara Bartlein, is The People Pro, and President of Great Lakes Consulting Group, LLC, which helps companies sell more goods and services by developing people. She can be reached at 888-747-9953, by e-mail at: or visit her website at Barbara Bartlein, The People Pro may be contacted at or



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