The relationship between manager and team members can have a wide-ranging impact on the members of staff. Often unwittingly, the manager can cause health problems in their staff and it is one of the main reasons why I am so passionate about helping new managers to become better leaders.
It is quite scary to think of how much people can be affected by a difficult relationship with their boss. It can erode their confidence, self-esteem and can lead to anxiety, stress and have harmful physiological impacts as well. All of which means that they work less well, take more time off and impact a business’s bottom line.
In short: Poor managers cost businesses money, poor managers can have a negative impact on the physical health of their staff.
There have been studies. Below, I outline the lessons from two of these studies.
Impact on blood pressure
I often start my training courses for new managers, by mentioning research undertaken by Wager, Fieldman and Hussey (1). They investigated how the perceived relationship between a group of nurses and their supervisors impacted the blood pressure of the nurses. They found that those nurses who worked with an “unfavoured supervisor showed significantly higher SBP (15 mm Hg) and DBP (7 mm Hg) when working under a less favoured compared to a favoured supervisor.”
To put it more plainly, those nurses who worked with supervisors they did not get on with had higher blood pressure. The increase in blood pressure was enough to cause damage to their cardio-vascular system if maintained over a period of time.
They concluded that “supervisors are in positions of relative power within the working environment … Where their behaviour gives rise to supervisees perceiving them as acting unfairly or unreasonably, this is likely to result in a decrement in supervisees’ general emotional and physiological wellbeing.”
This is an important point. A manager is in a position of power and trust. Their opinion and behaviour carries more weight that that of peers. That means, when an employee feels that they are being treated unfairly by a manager, the impact on them is much, much higher.
Stress related sick leave
According to the Health and Safety Executive (2), there were 15.4 million working days lost due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2017/18. That makes over 50% of the days lost to illness in the UK were due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety.
This stress is caused by workload, lack of support, changes in work or even violence and bullying.
Accidental bad management
My beleif is that people rarely go into work wanting to make their staff misearble. They want to be successful, they want their teams to be successful. But they do not have the skills, experience, undersatnding, awareness required to build happy, high-performing teams. They are bad managers by “accident”.
Good managers lookout for their staff and spend time making sure that they feel supported and cared for. They do this because they know this will improve their mental health, improve their motivation and reduce the number of days off sick.
My belief is that most managers would be shocked if they realised that their behaviour had caused such an impact. It is my belief that most managers are doing the best they can with limited skills. That is why I love training managers and giving them more skills and more confidence.
If you want your managers to lead more effective teams, maybe you should get in touch with me to find out how I can help.
1. Wager, N. (2003). The effect on ambulatory blood pressure of working under favourably and unfavourably perceived supervisors. Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 60(7), pp.468-474.
2. Health and Safety Executive (2018). Health and safety at work: Summary statistics for Great Britain 2018. [online] Crown, p.4. Available at: http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/overall/hssh1718.pdf [Accessed 24 Jun. 2019].