The Steep Price of a Hostile Workplace

Linda Dulye's picture

We couldn’t help but be amused by a Chicago Tribune editorial titled “Beware the jerks at work.” With that headline, how could we resist?

The piece was based on 20 years of research published by Tel Aviv University. The gist?

People who toiled alongside jerks, brown-nosers, blowhards and back-stabbers were 2.4 times more likely to die. Wow. And here’s a bit more on the research itself: Researchers tracked 820 people from varied professions who started out healthy in 1988. The study looked at the effects of workload, the amount of freedom given to workers to decide how to meet those demands, and social interactions with colleagues and supervisors. During the study, 53 of the workers died.

According to the research, those that died tended to be workers who reported lower levels of peer support on the job. In a article citing the same research there was good news for those with strained relationships with their manager: they were no more likely to die than others.

Today, examining the office culture is a popular exercise. (If you need proof, just look at the box-office numbers for the movie “Horrible Bosses”.) Even though there’s more than a droplet of sensationalism in the reporting of the Tel Aviv University research, the message to leaders should be loud and clear: It’s not enough to meet your team’s goals, deadlines and customer expectations.

Your role is also to facilitate an environment in which team members can thrive, not be beaten down by colleagues.


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