Contemporary Occupational Health Psychology: Global Perspectives on Research and Practice

By Jonathan Houdmont; Stavroula Leka | Go to book overview

3
Leadership and Employee Health:
A Challenge in the Contemporary Workplace

Töres Theorell, Peggy Bernin, Anna Nyberg, Gabriel Oxenstierna, Julia Romanowska, and Hugo Westerlund Stress Research Institute, Stockholm University, Stockholm1

This chapter describes scientific discussions about leadership in Sweden during the past two decades and sets them against the historical background. One of the main themes in this discussion has been participatory leadership. While this kind of managerial leadership seems to have many advantages, it may also have the disadvantage that laissez faire patterns—though still rare—are becoming relatively more common. The scientific literature suggests that such a leadership style may be bad for employee health and should therefore be addressed in management education. Three empirical examples serve as illustrations of research on the relationship between managerial leadership and employee health. The first example, which comes from a cross-sectional epidemiological study of Swedish workers, shows that employee descriptions of their leader are related to their own absence on grounds of sickness and sickness presenteeism patterns. The second example is based upon a prospective study of the risk of developing hard endpoint coronary heart disease in male employees in relation to their descriptions of the leadership that they experience in their work. The findings show that men who describe their managers as psychosocially competent have a decreased risk of developing a myocardial infarction during follow-up, after adjustment for accepted cardiovascular risk factors. The third example is based upon a year-long randomized controlled intervention study, with follow-up at 18 months, of managers (who were randomly assigned to two manager education programs) and their subordinates. Preliminary results show that an intervention based upon artistic sessions followed by ethical/moral discussions influenced self-rated mental health favourably and that the blood concentration of a regenerative hormone (which protects against the adverse health effects of long-lasting stress) is also favourably influenced in this group after follow-up.


General Conditions for Management in Sweden

In this contribution we use Sweden and its recent dynamic developments in working life as a background for a discussion of some central aspects of managerial

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