If you are stuck with a boss who is constantly breathing down your neck, be alert. His/her behaviour may be detrimental to your overall health in the long run.
According to the researchers, seniors who inspire their staff to perform above and beyond the call of duty may actually harm their employees’ health over time. The findings suggest that constant pressure from these “transformational leaders” may increase sickness absence levels among employees.
Some vulnerable employees in groups with such “transformational leaders” may, in the long term, increase sickness absence rates if they ignore their ill-health and frequently show up for work while being ill.
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.
The study, published in the journal Work & Stress, looked for the first time at the relationship between presenteeism, transformational leadership and sickness absence rates. Transformational leadership has previously been associated with positive employee well-being and reduced general absenteeism in the short term.
However, the new study suggests that a transformational leader who encourages their group to make an extra effort at work may exacerbate sickness absence, as high levels of presenteeism may result in reduced opportunities for recovery along with the risk of spreading contagious health conditions.
The research was focused on postal workers and their managers in Denmark over three years. In total, there were 155 participants in 22 work groups. Employees rated their immediate line manager at the start of the study and were asked about their sickness absence and presenteeism for the previous year. Sickness absence was assessed again in the second and third year.
The authors found that transformational leadership increased sickness absence when workers exhibited 14 more days of presenteeism than their colleagues. The findings suggests that more immediate, short term effects can be found among staff but for vulnerable workers, such as those with high levels of presenteeism, increasing adverse effects take longer to materialise.
Lack of recovery time may also explain this effect, leading to them eventually having to go off sick because they can no longer ignore their symptoms.
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