Power at work has payoffs, but not for health

October 19, 2009

Being at the top has its perks, but new University of Toronto research shows people in positions of authority at work are more likely to experience certain psychological and physical problems that can undermine the health benefits associated with job authority.

The study - which used data from a national survey of 1,800 American workers in different occupations and sectors - reveals previously undocumented evidence about the up and downsides of having authority in the workplace. with job authority are defined as those who direct or manage the work of others, have control over others, pay, and can hire or fire others.

Sociology professor Scott Schieman and PhD student Sarah Reid found people with more authority at work experience certain benefits that can contribute to better . They tend to earn greater pay and have jobs that involve more problem-solving tasks, making their work more interesting and engaging.

"Unfortunately, there are also downsides to job authority that undermine or offset the upsides of having power at work," says Schieman. "In most cases, the health costs negate the benefits."

People with job authority report significantly higher levels of interpersonal conflict with others, says Schieman. They're also more likely to encounter work-to-home interference, where stressors at work spill over into non-work domains like family and leisure time. These factors increase the risk for , anger and .

"Power at work does have drawbacks, and the negative impact on - both emotional and physical - is one of them," says Schieman, lead author on the study.

These findings help explain a lingering paradox in sociological research about job stress: Higher status positions have attributes that should contribute to less stress and better health, but people with authority at don't seem to have better health. This study sheds new light on the underlying dynamics.

More information: The study is appearing online now in the journal Social Science and Medicine. www.elsevier.com/locate/socscimed

Source: University of Toronto (news : web)

Explore further: The price of power at work?

Related Stories

The price of power at work?

August 19, 2008

Individuals with a more senior level of job authority have higher levels of interpersonal conflict according to new research out of the University of Toronto.

Work/life balance blurred for some employees

December 10, 2008

Employees with high levels of job autonomy and control over their schedules are more likely to bring their work home with them, according to surprising new research out of the University of Toronto.

Recommended for you

Amateur paleontologist finds rare fossil of fish in Arizona

September 3, 2015

Growing up, Stephanie Leco often would dig in her backyard and imagine finding fossils of a tyrannosaurus rex. She was fascinated with the idea of holding something in her hand that was millions of years old and would give ...

X-rays reveal fossil secrets

September 3, 2015

A sophisticated imaging technique has allowed scientists to virtually peer inside a 10-million-year-old sea urchin, uncovering a treasure trove of hidden fossils.

Early human diet explains our eating habits

August 31, 2015

Much attention is being given to what people ate in the distant past as a guide to what we should eat today. Advocates of the claimed palaeodiet recommend that we should avoid carbohydrates and load our plates with red meat ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Mauricio
not rated yet Oct 20, 2009
similar things have been observed in other primates...

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.