I’m currently reading Simon Sinek’s recent book:
and in it he cites some amazing new research.
“A 2011 study conducted by a team of social scientists at the University of Canberra in Australia concluded that having a job we hate is as bad for our health and sometimes worse than not having a job at all. Levels of depression and anxiety among people who are unhappy at work were the same or greater than those who were unemployed.” (Sinek, Simon, Leaders Eat Last, pg 27-8.)
It is a great book, and I highly recommend it to leaders of all kinds. He has really hit upon some important themes for us these days about leadership and the impact it has on health and well-being. What he begins to point out here is that the stress we feel at work has less to do with what kind of work we do and much more to do with the kind of leaders we have. The weaker the leader, the more debilitating the stress.
Leaders who ignore their employees, micromanage them or disregard them entirely are not only causing them suffering, they are minimizing their potential.
Sinek cites a 2013 Gallup poll, “State of the American Workplace” that reveals that “when our bosses completely ignore us, 40 percent of us actively disengage from our work.” Which can then spread to the whole team or organization and create a feeling of apathy and helplessness.
The bottom line is that the less control people feel at work, the more stress they experience. The more stress they feel, the more depressed, sick and unproductive people are. It isn’t the workload in particular, but the feeling that no one in charge notices them, appreciates them or acknowledges them. (Even negative feedback has less of an effect on disengagement: 22%.)
**I want to make a quick note that in my mind, this does not imply that leaders should dote and indulge their employees. I think that we all know where that path leads:
Feeling like you have some control over your life can be the antidote to the work and stress of a job. If you feel that you have a certain amount of autonomy and support, then the research suggests that you will suffer less both physically and mentally. (This does not mean that we no longer have bad days. It just means that we don’t suffer those days as deeply as we do when we feel out of control.)
So what can we do?
Take an active interest in the successes of your employees and learn to communicate both your expectations and your vision for them and for the company. See the correlation between their feelings of connection to the goal of the organization and the success of that same organization. Make a concerted effort to engage, listen and communicate.
Employees: Stop being passive.
You are participating in this life, and you have a responsibility to engage in it. If you are in a situation that is designed to ignore you and minimize you, then I suggest you think hard about leaving or changing the environment. No amount of money is worth dying over a poisonous work environment and no work environment will change without your participation.
“Venus Favors the Bold”