Does Your Boss Lift Weights?
In these times of economic recession, managers in companies and organisations are under pressure. And who suffers most from this? The people who do the real work. They are likely to get a bucket of s*@t over them every time the manager is faced with a problem. Unless the manager in question trains or does yoga, researchers at Northern Illinois University discovered.
The researchers questioned students who had worked about their experiences with their managers. Had the students been humiliated? Threatened? Harassed? Had they been subjected to public shaming? In short: had they encountered abusive supervision?
The researchers then traced the managers and asked them about the stress levels at their work. Were they likely to be denied a bonus? Were sales down? Were they not reaching targets?
The researchers also asked the managers whether they did any exercise. From the literature the researchers knew that physical exercise can help reduce psychological stress.
When the researchers processed their data, they saw that managers took out their stress on their subordinates - but not if the managers did regular exercise.
The amount of physical exercise that stressed managers need to maintain normal behaviour towards their subordinates is not high: a minimum of 1-2 times a week. The type of exercise made no difference. Whether the managers did strength training, aerobics or yoga, it made their behaviour under difficult circumstances less unpleasant.
"Our study supports a link between supervisor stress and employee perceptions of abusive supervision", the researchers conclude, "but this is a link that can be loosened if supervisors engage in the healthy buffering mechanism of a moderate level of physical exercise".
J Bus Psychol DOI 10.1007/s10869-011-9255-0.