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Demanding bosses bad for your health: study

A new study suggests that bosses who push you to perform beyond the call of duty may damage your health and add to your sickness absence rates.

A research by scientists from University of East Anglia (UEA) in the UK show that unvarying pressure from these 'transformational leaders' may hike sickness absence levels among employees.

Transformational leadership has previously been linked to positive employee well-being, better sleep quality, lesser depressive symptoms and decreased general absenteeism in the short term. The study suggests that a transformational leader who motivates their group to make an extra effort at work may intensify sickness absence, as high levels of presenteeism may lead to reduced opportunities for recovery in addition to the risk of spreading contagious conditions.

Karina Nielsen from UEA said, "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. 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."

During the course of study, Transformational leadership in the first year was associated with higher levels of sickness absence among staff in the second year, but not the third, researchers said. Employees working in groups in the midst of a transformational leader and who had high levels of presenteeism showed the highest levels of sickness absenteeism in the third year, but not the second, they said.

The findings featured in the journal Work and Stress.