11 August 2008

UK Study - Aggressive e-mails from your boss are a Health Risk

'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

Professor Cooper, who lectures in organisational psychology at Lancaster University, told BBC News Online that face to face meetings were best for important instructions or news.

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.'
source: worksmart.org.uk

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