Bad bosses make you sick, unproductive

Bad bosses make you sick, unproductive

2014-01-05 16:14

Johannesburg - New research shows unhappy employees are less likely to be healthy and productive, reported City Press.

The holidays are over and for many, it’s back to work tomorrow.

But while some are looking forward to getting back to their jobs, others are wishing they could turn back the clock to mid-December.

It’s not because they need more time to relax on the beach, but because they dread going to work where their bosses breathe down their necks.

Studies have shown that people who are unhappy at work - mainly because of their horrible bosses - often call in sick or stay away, citing a family emergency.

Now, an interesting research report into this phenomenon has revealed that when unhappy employees take sick leave regularly, they may in fact be sick.

A study conducted by Ohio State University in the US and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal revealed that horrible bosses affect the health of those who work under them.

It showed how chronic work-related stress changes gene activity in immune cells before they reach the bloodstream.

The changes prepare the cells to fight an infection or trauma that doesn’t actually exist.

This leads to severe inflammation, which is linked to many health problems including heart disease, obesity and dementia.

Dr Ralph Evans, an industrial psychology consultant based in Pretoria, says that although he has not analysed the study, he agrees with its findings.

“Based on my experience working for industrial or corporate companies, working for a horrible boss who is always screaming or pulling rank for no valid reason has a detrimental effect on employees’ physical and mental health,” he said.

“If your boss is always shouting at you the minute you set foot inside the office, morale goes and you prepare for a fight, and during that preparation your immune system prepares for a fight as well, not knowing that the fight is not physical.”

Dr Jacques Snyman, the owner of the Zurreal4employers programme, an employee wellness and human capital and financial services product, agreed and urged employers to find ways to deal with workplace bullying, saying this practice affected absenteeism rates and productivity.

One boss well regarded for nurturing her staff is Ayanda Nakedi, the senior general manager of Eskom Holdings who won the Boss of The Year Leadership award in November.

She agreed that some bosses lacked people skills, and said organisations need to find a way to deal with workplace bullying.

“We need to consciously rid ourselves of caustic behaviours, but strive to maintain and demonstrate tendencies that contribute to the relevance and sustainability of ourselves and the organisation.

“Without saying whether it is good or bad, what is rather important is that we should know ourselves as leaders. In knowing ourselves we will have empathy and be more authentic at the workplace,” she said.

Nakedi, who began her career at Eskom 20 years ago as a petty cash clerk, told City Press that believing in objectivity, fairness and justice in the workplace is what made her the boss she is today.

“We need to understand that as human beings we have different personalities, circumstances and journeys that we have travelled.

“Reprimands, debates and confrontations are normal in the quest for development.

“The effective way of staying sane anywhere is to be objective, steadfastly maintain focus and strive to excel,” she said.

She also advised bosses to admit their weaknesses and defy the need to be right all the time.

“At times, we need to express our vulnerabilities, as it is through this vulnerability that we will converse our strengths as leaders. If we can master this as leaders, we will improve the health of ourselves and the employees,” she said.

  • ravikesh.kalicharran - 2014-01-05 16:18


      Ian Flack - 2014-01-05 17:04

      Nothing like stating the obvious, is there? so to speak...

      Kiss123 - 2014-01-05 17:08

      what about the lazy people, do you think bosses wake up being pissed off ? as an employer I am sick of lazy ,useless people always looking to blame someone else !...and then expecting a bigger salary !

      Feik Mc Heither - 2014-01-05 17:25

      Who did you employ Kiss? Strip pole managers

      Gerald King - 2014-01-05 21:44

      Being emotional has no place at work. Even if you get bio PMS. Boss is just an organisational duty. Simply execute it, even if its to correct others, be professional and take pride. Otherwise you are even worse that a slouch for tearing the company's morale down. You want people to enjoy being there!!!

      Umbono Wami - 2014-01-06 06:04

      Exactly Gerald! We are not saying we want bosses to befriend us. We are NOT condoning the waste of productivity and being slack. It is simple things that they need to acknowledge and work on, such as manner of approach and letting go of the need to show "who is boss" (like we don't already know). Nowhere does the article mention thal ALL bosses do NOT treat subordinates or employees well. I would never deny that there are excellent managers/bosses out there, that possess great and enviable interpersonal and managerial traits. The focus of the article is only on those managers (bosses) that treat staff like sh*t...usually for no apparent reason. Maybe one day News24 will have an article relating to management and employers that DO possess excellent managerial and interpersonal skills. Some managers are so full of themselves and their overinflated sense of importance...that they feel NO inclination to greet staff. To them, staff are just lower forms. How is that sort of behaviour necessary for the better good of morale and positive company culture? Denying that there are such issues in the workplace is like saying the victims of rape must have acted in a sexually provocative manner and that's why they have been raped. Why must we deny or turn a blind eye to the fact that bullies exist in management, just as they exist anywhere else? The no. 1 bully tactic is denial and blaming the victim for the bullying. Do ALL the work yourself then and don't hire anyone if you feel you are the only one capable of getting positive results.

      Kiss123 - 2014-01-06 08:19

      Feik, with a comment like that I can only imagine the intellectual level we are dealing with

      Byron Damons - 2014-01-06 09:30

      if that's the case,why does the stress not affect the bosses.Why cant they get sick when when their constantly stress over others

  • Mike Heyns - 2014-01-05 16:20

    Perhaps the methodology in determining the skilled and educated qualifications of the candidate should improve? This is what happens when you employ a man without legs to push a wheelbarrow!!

      Alfredo Bongani Ndwalane - 2014-01-05 17:22

      You really made my day Mike, you deserve a Ballentines.

  • Mike Heyns - 2014-01-05 16:21

    And then we should start asking the same questions to those in parliament!

  • Nerina Smith - 2014-01-05 16:23

    and what about bad staff who make the boss sick. They must have three written warnings of the same kind before a dismissal hearing can take place .... some of them manipulate you in such a way that you dont have something to pin them down for warnings. Just had the case where a staff member was dismissed, but still allowed to stay on the premises (at my office) for another month. I cant employ someone else before the room is no vacated because I dont have alternative accommodation. He walk pass the office hourly, mocking us from outside. I dont want to go back to work because I csnt take it anymore.

      Jeff Baxter - 2014-01-05 16:36

      Nerina, exactly! I had a coupleof fellows who played the system like a banjo.they knew exacly how far to push and would be quiet until the warning had expired.then back to their tricks.

      grant.wright.18 - 2014-01-05 16:48

      Bad staff with bad intentions make bad managers

      Mike Heyns - 2014-01-05 17:20

      Consult with your HR department to apply clauses to Labour Act. Al is legal and obviously endorsed by our "minister". In short, there are legal ways in dealing with this. If you don't, you'll loose all respect from your other employees! "WHO's the BOSS?"

      Steve du Preez - 2014-01-05 17:42

      Dismissed but allowed to stay on the premises?? That is not a dismissal Nerina, that is a resignation. Your HR department is clearly not in control of the situation. Hope you get sorted, can imagine the stress this type of subtle intimidation can cause.

  • Langa Kapueja - 2014-01-05 16:49

    I was victimised by my first boss when I began working as Ranger but even when I finally got a transfer, I was very defensive towards a boss who had sound leadership skills...I just thought I could never do anything right under his watch and felt really lethagic when it came to going to work especially when he was around. What was funny though was that my supervisor there was much stricter but I got along with him just fine.

      Langa Kapueja - 2014-01-05 23:01

      Andre', I was born to be a Ranger. I have always loved and understood the wild, however, I came to terms with a hard fact to accept; I'm not a born leader but a superb follower...I value a clear and precise instruction and can be somewhat of a perfectionist when I execute a given task...people who are not skilled leaders are vague in their delegation and harsh even before a task is complete. You have your reasons to scorn my comment but that maybe due to the fact that we come from different walks... I love to work and despise anything or anyone who hinders me to work and reach my full potential. Believe it or not, some of us are emberrassed at the thought of owning an RDP house.

      Umbono Wami - 2014-01-06 05:10

      Langa...why did you feel the need to even justify your comment to this Andre person??? You don't owe anyone an explanation for your view. If he doesn't like it...tough takkies. Obviously he is one such bully boss from hell, otherwise your comment would not strike a nerve with him.

      Langa Kapueja - 2014-01-06 06:55 me, there was no need. My action was involuntary... may just prove the repulsion one feels when you encounter a person who views you as a mere tool.

      JohnnyBetter - 2014-01-06 09:56

      @Andre, what a stupid thing to say. Langa, not everyone is born to be a leader and not all can be. It takes a great leader to get the best out of the 'followers'.

  • Elske Joubert - 2014-01-05 17:07


  • Vince Muller - 2014-01-05 17:15


      Luzuko Mtoyi - 2014-01-06 09:06

      @Vince, you are struggling to hide your inferences and insinuations! Why not deal with the facts of this story, rather than do PARABLES! All races in RSA have their lazy people and hardworking people ( Managers and non-managers). Family businesses are usually the worst when it comes to industrial relations....

  • Jack Thomas - 2014-01-05 17:51

    And bad workers make bosses sick too

      Sandjie Hendricks - 2014-01-05 17:57

      'n goeie baas moet weet hoe om met mense te werk, en hoe hulle to hanteer. As djy die salaris van 'n baas wil he moet djy vi dit werk en dit betekin djy moet met verskilende mense werk.

  • Sandjie Hendricks - 2014-01-05 17:51

    Ek het vieslik hard elke dag gewerk vi 'n doo$ van baas. Toe eendag het ek net weggeloop en ander werk soek. Dissie die moeite werd om met 'n dekselse slang van 'n baas te werk.

  • Wendy Barnett - 2014-01-05 17:59

    Had a few of those in my time

  • Paljas Paljassie - 2014-01-05 18:02

    If you do your job and use inititive ideas to better yourself in your workplace, you will be happy. Your boss is not your best friend. He makes sure to keep a successfull business running.

      Langa Kapueja - 2014-01-06 08:26

      Guys, some of you are beginning to sound very obtuse and somewhat childish. Who goes to work to make friends? Whether it's with your boss or co-workers...just who??? If I give you the respect you deserve as my superior and do my job accordingly, it doesn't mean I'm your child...I'm a man with a family of my own and so have the common courtesy to acknowledge this. I'm talking to black, whites, Indians...the lot

  • Andre Potgieter - 2014-01-05 18:07

    Bad employees made me so "sick and unproductive", that I closed my business and put thirty direct employees out of work. I feel a continental for their dependants. But, Viva, ANC, Cosatu, Numsa, CCMA and any other abbreviation you might think of. I'm living a peaceful life, without all this stress.I hope the unions can provide work for these people.They won't rest untill all has ground to a halt.

      Langa Kapueja - 2014-01-06 08:10

      Andre', I don't mean to say management should form a buddy buddy relationship with staff...I also don't agree with all organized labour action because it can be prejudicial and fueled by ulterior motives...but having said, what gratification does a boss get when he/she shoves staff around in an undignified manner yet still wants the job done perfectly? please enlighten us. Would I be wrong if I would say that there wouldn't be a need for Unions if both Management and Workforce could engage with mutual respect?

  • Lizzy Milazi Shanki - 2014-01-05 18:13

    100% true today i hav a Peplic ulcer which is cos by a lot of stress then the acid goes up,my previous Boss was a davil n a monster,i use 2 fake sickness or buy sick note so i can b away frm him,so 4 that 9yrs in his company,what damage he,has cos to my health??thanx 4 firing me,i am happy now than bfore*enjoying my new job now*

  • Henry Fivaz - 2014-01-05 18:17

    Over the years I worked under many bosses. Some were good some were terrible. But I never felt like taking sick leave because I did not like the boss. Staying away does not solve the problem. Increases help only for a short while. The boss did not put himself in that position. So except that he is the boss and do what is required of you. It seems that people will do anything to stay away from the office because they are to lazy to work.

      Umbono Wami - 2014-01-06 04:55

      I can't imagine how easy it could be to just sit at home and call in sick repeatedly when there are no real signs of illness. Let's put those instances aside so we can address the fact that there ARE people that do become genuinely unwell as a result of having managers "from hell", and that is the point of this article. The article, in this case, is not focusing on individuals that call in sick purely out of laziness. The effects from the stress of being unhappy at work/school/marriage pose very real health challenges to most. Repeated bouts of flu, gastric/high stomach acidity issues, depression, chronic fatigue, anxiety, frequent tension headaches, ulcers, etc, are all VERY REAL symptoms of a compromised immune system usually related to stress. Some managers do not even know or want to understand the intricasies of the functions of their staff, all they are interested in is pulling rank unnecessarily and always finding fault with the work of those that are junior to them in rank. Those same managers are also the ones that are less likely to acknowledge staff for work well done. It is definitely NOT imaginary that some managers are insecure and lack people management skills. Half the time middle or senior management is under pressure to meet the demands of the expectations of the company directors, so they will use any outlet to release the pressure they are subjected to. You can't please some people/managers, however hard you try, because sometimes it is THEIR personality shortcomings that get in the way of adapting healthy, interpersonal skills. No one goes to work aiming to be unhappy all day, everyday. We are not expecting managers to be friends with their subordinates, but treating staff like lower forms and using bully tactics is unnecessary. Bullies never acknowledge that they are the ones with a problem...anyway.

  • Martin Pearce - 2014-01-05 18:17

    Yes, there is some truth in this article. Bad bosses do demoralise staff at work, but there are those staff that have the same effect on their colleagues. I have come to the conclusion that the work ethic in the service industry sucks, whether it be in any sector, retail, financial, whatever. Bosses place strong emphasis on the incorrect priorities, thus demoralising the staff. There is no more appreciation for work well done. All that is important is the 'Almighty Dollar', profit beyond all, and stuff the employee at the coal front.

  • Getrude - 2014-01-05 18:41

    Pranay Devchand in Tshwane District (Gauteng Department of Education) this one is for you: In my entire career life I never had a wonderful boss like you. You never breathe down on my neck but you acknowledged and appreciated my efforts and contributions to the district. I remember when you introduced us during the cluster meetings you focused on our expertise and the value we were gonna add to the organisation. You deserve praise and recognition for your profound leadership. Whenever I am made to feel stupid at work i think of your words when you said I am a "dark horse" and I instantly regain my sanity not to allow myself to be sick and uproductive as mentioned above. Thanks a million times. I wish other leaders can realise how they can make or break their subordinates. Proud of you! !!!

      Fannie Mashilo - 2014-01-05 21:22

      Pls don't remind me of Monica Lewinsky.

  • cliford.ndaba.5 - 2014-01-05 19:23

    If you feel not apreciated , just abandone the ship

  • Nghamula Mdunwazi - 2014-01-05 19:54

    Eish God help us not to resighn so early

  • Humbulani Mudzanani - 2014-01-05 20:02

    Last December I attended the JMPD fitness program,there were thousands of us,& of about hundred I spoke to no one was talking about how much they loved being a Metro cop or how passionate they were about the job.For them it was just a ticket out of poverty.In my opinion if you doing any job you love,no one can spoil it for you....

  • Venessa Born Stubborn Ede - 2014-01-05 20:17

    I worked in private education for close to four years and I can relate. My employers, husband (MD) and wife (principal), had NO people skills, NO leadership skills, NO business skills and NO common sense. Administrative procedures would chnage weekly and just as you've spent countless hours and days adjusting your files they'll come up with a new idea and you have to do everything from scratch. Even the subject facilitators from the Department of Education agreed that they made us do pointless admin. My lessons were never good enough, my teaching methods were never good enough, all the extra effort I put in was never good enough (and the vast majority of my students received well above 50%, and helped a great many students improve their marks). All subjects taught by the 'principal' turned into absolute disasters with a lot of students failing and those who passed barely made it. I wouldn't even need all my fingers to count how many times I had been off sick. In the end I walked out when I was told I was only there for the money and not dedicated to my work. I still have health issues, most of which are stress related. The school closed shortly after I left and my previous employers ran away to China (with most of the school fees and leaving behind mountains of debt), leaving the matrics high and dry in the middle of prelims and a month before finals. I am glad to be rid of them and I know they'll get exactly what they deserve.

      Venessa Born Stubborn Ede - 2014-01-05 20:38

      I would also like to add that in the nearly five years the school was operational (Jan 2009 to Sep 2013), they had a staff turnover of 28 teachers. That is nearly 6 teachers per year, of whom only about 5 left under amicable circumstances, which is a ridiculous amount in a school that averaged 6 permanent staff and aproximately 60 students.

      Jonathan Woods - 2014-01-05 21:13

      Good luck in your own venture!

  • Lesman Banda - 2014-01-05 20:31

    most bosses do not read news24, fortunately for them.

  • Lwanda Mhlauli - 2014-01-05 23:07

    there is some good to any of the bosses and must always think the best of them.....

  • GordonT - 2014-01-05 23:15

    There are three sides to every story. I'm sure I'm seen as a "bad boss" (I'd hate to work for me if I was lazy), but I've tried giving complete flexibility, setting well rewarding targets, giving the staff extra time off, being generous with many other things, but it's always the same result. Work doesn't get done. Customers are unhappy because staff don't deliver and arrive very late for meetings. Staff don't put in the extra effort to actually get the big bonuses they are offered. Always an excuse as to why something isn't done, and wasting time on facebook or disappearing from the office when they could be developing their own skills and experience. As a "bad boss", I'm the one who works late nights, weekends and holidays just to pick up the slack, keep customers happy and us in business. I would also rather be out there enjoying life instead of cleaning up your mess. Maybe there would be fewer "bad bosses" if people actually did what was needed to keep companies running instead of wasting the day away on facebook and at the pub.

      Jeanne De Jager - 2014-01-06 00:22

      Total agreement

      Umbono Wami - 2014-01-06 04:18 difficult could it be to put measures in place on your company network to curb the use of Facebook, Twitter and other social media, unless you mean staff access Fb on their personal gadgets? Before you blow a fuse, have you tried to engage regularly, one-on-one with the specific staff that you know waste time on Fb? Of course it's inexcusable to waste the major part of a workday doing things other than what you are employed for. I just didn't realise Fb is still so big that it poses a threat to productivity.

      Clement Mokone - 2014-01-06 07:46

      Give me dat job Gordon

  • Raoul Duke - 2014-01-06 07:53

    I agree to disagree...

  • Anna-Marie Cillie - 2014-01-06 10:00

    I have on applied on numerous occasions to be transferred to a place where I can be more productive and my skills be put to better use of not only the organization I work for, but also the public...needless to say that every time my application was turned down...after I have set out my situation and ambitions. I am career driven, but it is hard when your seniors deny you an opportunity to live, be productive and be happy. Now I am only existing at work, feeling the effects of burn-out and give a damn about things around me. Not easy to get through the day feeling like that. I am honest with you. I dont know what 2014 will have in store for us, but I will try one more time to get my application approved, then, I will take things from there.

  • Meenakshi Singh - 2014-06-18 08:21

    what do u think when a boss hold the salary of any honest and hardworking employee..?

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