'Aggressive' e-mail health threat
The health effects of "threatening" e-mails sent by bosses to their workers has been revealed by researchers.
Critical e-mail from a boss is a sure-fire blood pressure booster, says a U.K. researcher.
"Certainly sending out hostile e-mails has physiological consequences," said Dr. George Fieldman, a psychologist with Buckinghamshire Chilterns University College in the U.K.
In a linked programme, Howard Taylor, Saadi Lahlou (Head of the Laboratory of Design for Cognition at Electricité de France) and Dr Fieldman demonstrated that e-mail phraseology can influence psycho-physiological responses:
He hooked volunteers up to a blood pressure monitor and them got them to read their e-mail inbox.
Messages aggressively written from a boss shot the recipient's blood pressure readings up by about 10 per cent.
That could have a cumulative effect on a person's health, he said: "With an elevation that lasts weeks, months and years … then there may be health consequences of a cardio-vascular nature. So people may be more prone to getting heart attacks and strokes," he said.
Some companies in the U.K. have banned internal e-mail because it's become a burden to internal team-building.
Fieldman said one problem is that it's too easy for a boss in the heat of the moment to send a negative message.
The U.K. employment agency Reed.co.uk found in a poll that one in six workers say they have been the victim of e-mail bullying, and 46 per cent say the problem has grown in the past three years.
"For whatever reason, e-mail encourages stupid behaviour in people, said Sunny Marche, a Dalhousie University professor who studies the use of computers in business.
His advice? "I think it's very easy to misinterpret a negative e-mail and overemphasize what is communicated."
Fieldman said bosses should grab their phones rather than jump to their keyboards the next time they want to communicate with an employee.
sources:reported 8 January 2004 BBC , reported 12 January 2004 CTV.ca
He said: "You should never hire or fire someone by e-mail - or choose this way to castigate them.Professor Cooper ' suggests that face to face discussion allows for vital non-verbal cues to soften a tough message from the boss, but with an e-mail people only see the aggressive words, increasing the tension and potential for misinterpretation. "E-mail is not a social support for us anymore" he said, "it's more like a source of stress. I once spoke to someone who said he was frightened to open his e-mail after two weeks' holiday.'