Office jerks kill

Lucas Berrini, Flickr

The petty tyrant in the corner office is out to get you. In more ways than one.

Researchers at Tel Aviv University have discovered that a toxic work environment can be hazardous to your health. The sublimely restrained study titled, Work-based Predictors of Mortality, scientifically demonstrates the soul-sucking experience of dysfunctional corporate management.

Jonah Lehrer at Wired takes aim on the 20-year study:

“The first thing the researchers discovered is that office conditions matter. A lot. In particular, the risk of death seemed to be correlated with the perceived niceness of co-workers, as less friendly colleagues were associated with a higher risk of dying. (What’s troubling is that such workplaces seem incredibly common.) While this correlation might not be surprising — friendly people help reduce stress, and stress is deadly — the magnitude of the ‘friendly colleague effect’ is a bit unsettling: people with little or no ‘peer social support’ in the workplace were 2.4 times more likely to die during the study, especially if they began the study between the ages of 38 and 43. In contrast, the niceness of the boss had little impact on mortality.”

Yikes. So how does this relate to lean, mean startups?

With small companies the reverberation of one office jerk — be it an overbearing employee or adviser — can be enormous.

Lehrer drops the bomb:

What’s driving this effect? Why are caustic co-workers so unhealthy? One interesting factor influencing the correlation between peer social support and mortality was the perception of control. This makes sense: the only thing worse than an office full of assholes is an office full of assholes telling us what to do.