Your Boss May Be Trying To Kill You
If you think you are being treated unjustly at work, you may be headed for an early grave. Finding a fair place to work may be more important than a big paycheck.
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November 12, 2005
“So I was sitting in my cubicle today, and I realized, ever since I started working, every single day of my life has been worse than the day before it. So that means that every single day that you see me, that's on the worst day of my life.”
Peter Gibbons, Office Space (1999)
Office Space would be a mediocre movie if it did not perfectly capture the insanity that can overcome humanity in the office culture. And yet, we know that disgruntled cubicle warriors around the country spend their days recreating the grotesque sighs and grunts of Lumbergh’ supervisory torture. According to Amazon.com, Office Space is particularly popular among customers from Ridgewood, NJ. Not surprising.
Recently, public health researchers in Finland put numbers to the soul-draining experience of working in an unfair office environment. They studied data from over 6,000 civil servants in London, placing them into three categories based on the workers’ perceived level of justice in the office.
The Finnish tell us that justice at work is determined by whether people believe that their supervisors:
-Consider their viewpoints
-Share information concerning decision-making
-Treat them fairly and in a truthful manner
After checking for risk factors for heart disease in the late 1980’s and asking the middle-aged British civil servants whether they thought work was fair, the Finnish came back nine years later and checked on who was still alive. When they controlled for cholesterol levels, smoking and drinking, body mass and physical activity, they still found that working in a just office environment reduced the workers’ risk of heart disease by 30 percent.
Thirty percent! When the people who have authority over most of the hours of your life are lying to you all the time and treating you like a sub-human commodity, it kills you. The authors conclude that health researchers should be studying justice.
What is to be done?
Don’t expect the Finnish to help you with your evil boss in Manhattan. As with much else in health these days, it is left up to you to find a workplace that treats you fairly. The next time you decide to suck it up and just deal with all of the crap that you take day in and day out, realize that the ache you feel in your chest may be the slow development of heart disease, killing you one memo at a time.
Do what Peter did in Office Space. Stand up for yourself. You may just live a longer, happier life.
"Justice at Work and Reduced Risk of Coronary Heart Disease Among Employees," Kivimaki et. al. Arch Intern Med. 2005;165:2245-2251.