How Healthy Are You?

11.15.12 | Posted in UnCommon Leadership

This blog isn’t quite what you think by the title. Question: are YOU a healthy person to work for? Say what?! Yes, it turns out there is research that supports a direct correlation between a person’s health and the type of boss they have. For those of us engaged in and around corporations, we know that there is an epidemic of lousy leadership evidenced by these stats:

  • 70% of US employees are unengaged at some level (it’s much worse in some countries!)
  • 80% of US employees don’t trust their boss
  • 67% of employees don’t quit the company they quit their boss

How can we tie lousy leadership to health issues of employees? In a great book I read called “Good Boss, Bad Boss”, by Robert Sutton, the author sites a Swedish survey that followed 3,122 men for 10 years. The punch line from the study is that those men with “good bosses” have at least a 20% less exposure to heart attacks and 39% less if they worked for that good boss for more than 4 years.

Turns out that you as a leader have a direct impact on the actual physical health of those that you’ve been entrusted to lead! No surprise really.

Here are three examples that I’ve experienced that provide some insight into this issue that most of us never knew existed. In a previous corporate life, my boss created a tough climate to work in. There were a lot of “dead bodies” around.  At one point in our company’s history four of the top five executives retired due to health related issues. In another case, I had done some leadership and Birkman consulting for a company. Not long after the project ended, I received some phone calls from some of the employees who report directly to the CEO. They wanted to know why I wasn’t  there and when I ask why they’re calling it’s “I can’t take this anymore” kind of comments. Toxicity is in the air.

And, finally, I had a project coaching an executive for a $2 billion company. During the qualitative interviews of people that either work for them or with them, the atmosphere in the building was described as a “grey cloud.” One person even said that when they hear the leader arrive on the floor of the building everyone’s attitude shifts from happy and excited to “oh, no, what’s going to happen bad today!”

So, two questions:

  • How healthy are you personally
  • How healthy are you to work for?!

I can predict that over 90% of you have never thought about that second question. UnCommon Leadership requires you to look in the mirror and deal with your “stuff”and stop making the people around you “sick.”

Why won’t leaders do that? Most have very poor self-perceptions and don’t really realize just how toxic they are to work for. And, change isn’t easy. It requires tough and honest introspection. It’s easier to keep doing what you’ve been doing and let the other people around you figure out how to survive your leadership style and the negative atmosphere you create.

Here’s my suggestion. If, for some reason, this blog has caused you to stop and think that maybe some of what was just described might be you, then start caring about the legacy you’re leaving as a leader. Make a commitment to doing whatever it takes to become an UnCommon Leader – a leader that serves others and makes a positive impact to everyone around them!

Onward & Upward!

Ed Chaffin

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2 Responses to “How Healthy Are You?”

  1. Carol says:

    Don’t forget about the boss who may not be a jerk, but has no clue of the work load that he imposes on his employees because he sees no other way to balance the budget. Often these types not only are clueless, but also fail to offer constructive help because they don’t want to deal with it. In other words, you are left to handle it or quit.

    • echaffin says:

      Thanks for the comments. There are many forms of being jerk; some overt some not so much. Being completely unaware of the impact of your decisions on subordinates and being totally clueless of their workload is a subtle way of being a jerk! In this downturn, Corporate America (and even non-profit) have moved toward ruthless approaches towards employees and the data on employee engagement is alarming. There will be a backlash at some point but right now employees have little power!

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