Your High Stress Job Could Actually Be Killing You


Stop saying “kill me” as a stress release when all hell breaks loose at work.

New research suggests you might get exactly what you ask for, especially if you have a high-demand job with little control over your direction and goals.

Yes, you heard right. “Worked to death” is a thing.

Pressure, Pushing Down On Me

Researchers at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business made some startling conclusions by studying 2,363 Wisconsin residents over a seven-year period.

They found people in high-stress jobs with little control over their workflow die younger or are less healthy than those who have more flexibility and discretion in their jobs and are able to set their own goals as part of their employment.

They eat more. They smoke. They engage in other unhealthy habits. And they pay the price for it, sometimes with their lives, researchers found.

The problems are high stress jobs that do not empower you with flexibility or control over your own destiny but rather saddle you with rigid micromanagement.

Job Demands vs. Personal Discretion

Erik Gonzalez-Mulé, assistant professor of organizational behavior and human resources at the Kelley School and the paper’s lead author, said they explored job demands, or the amount of work, time pressure and concentration demands of a job, and job control, or the amount of discretion one has over making decisions at work, as joint predictors of death.

“These findings suggest that stressful jobs have clear negative consequences for employee health when paired with low freedom in decision-making, while stressful jobs can actually be beneficial to employee health if also paired with freedom in decision-making,” he said.

Consider this:

Low-control, high-demand jobs are associated with a 15.4 percent increase in the likelihood of death compared to low demand jobs.

But high-control, high-demand jobs are associated with a 34 percent decrease in the likelihood of death compared to low demand jobs.

Stop Micromanaging

So here’s the big takeaway for employers: You can still set high expectations for your employees. Heck, you can even jump on the productivity bandwagon — pick a tool, or many tools, to help your team get more work done.

Just stop telling them to dot every “i” and cross every “t” … resist the urge to micro-manage your employees to early graves.

“Allow them to set their own goals, set their own schedules, prioritize their decision-making and the like,” Gonzalez-Mulé said.

Try having a little respect, and allowing “employees to have a voice in the goal-setting process, so when you’re telling someone what they’re going to do … it’s more of a two-way conversation.”

Instead of being something debilitating, a stressful job “can be something that’s energizing,” he explained.

“You’re able to set your own goals, you’re able to prioritize work. You can go about deciding how you’re going to get it done. That stress then becomes something you enjoy.”

Title image by Alexander Dummer


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