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  • Writer's pictureJohn Larrimer

Is Your Boss Putting Your Health at Risk?

Most employees don’t get the luxury of choosing their boss and can sometimes wind up with a manager or supervisor who wouldn’t exactly be their first choice (to put it nicely). An article in the Harvard Business Review showed most employees would rather be employed with a boss who is less competent yet likeable, rather than a skilled, tyrannical overlord (shocker!).

While no one likes a bad boss, studies have shown that these toxic bosses may actually be liable for more than just resentment and exasperation they inspire in employees. A 2004 study showed that socially related stressors, such as having an emotionally taxing boss, can take a physical toll on workers.

How Do Toxic Bosses Put Employee Health at Risk?

Cortisol is a stress hormone our brain releases during periods of emotional or physical intensity. A 2008 study showed that when faced with an intense task, cortisol is continued to be released for roughly 20 minutes after the task is complete. However, when faced with a social-evaluative threat (like, say an angry boss), high cortisol levels continue to release for more than an hour after the encounter. This means social confrontations are more stressful than intense, task-oriented mental or physical tasks.

Two separate studies with more than 4,000 participants studied employees who work for emotionally taxing bosses. These employees experience less sleep and elevated inflammation, both of which are known to cause fatigue, accidents and long-term health issues.

A 2011 study showed that negative feelings, often experienced by employees who have toxic bosses who bully, reject or inflict emotional pain, follow the same neuro pathways as feelings from physical pain. Long-term exposure to both physical and emotional pain is known to cause depression, excessive amounts of cortisol and immune suppression. Bottom line, bad bosses put their employee’s health at risk, just by being…themselves.

If I Have a Toxic Boss, What Kind of Illnesses am I at Risk for?

Two separate studies found that when working for a toxic boss, employees are more susceptible to the following health risks:

  1. Hypertension

  2. Coronary heart disease

  3. High blood pressure

  4. Obesity

  5. High cholesterol

Though these statistics are readily available, managers have admitted in these studies to being aware of a lack of people skills (again, to put it nicely). Studies show that 64 percent say they need to improve their management skills. Unfortunately, the law does not require employers to treat workers nicely. However, employees may file claims of emotional distress and discrimination in the workplace. If you feel your health is threatened due to your toxic boss, contact an attorney to assess the situation and inform you of your rights.

Larrimer & Larrimer, LLC represents victims of workplace injury or illness in the Ohio area.


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