The impact of managers' leadership style and their power to shape working conditions give them a vital influence over employee health and well-being. Managers provide key resources, such as social support, which is particularly important in view of its stress-mitigating effects.
Managers have a significant influence on how work is designed and employees' health. However, their leadership roles also pose challenges that affect their own situation at work.
The following points are evident from the Employment Survey 2018 (Erwerbstätigenbefragung 2018) conducted by the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (Bundesinstitut für Berufsbildung, BIBB) and the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (Bundesanstalt für Arbeitsschutz und Arbeitsmedizin, BAuA):
Companies should keep an eye on the specific work situations and personal health of their managers, in particular those at the lower management levels. This group should be regarded not just as being responsible for working conditions, but also as being affected by them - an insight that should be factored into risk assessments.
Leadership has definite links with employee health. Management style relates to health outcomes, while the part managers play in shaping working conditions influences such outcomes indirectly.
Analysis of the BIBB/BAuA surveys carried out between 2006 and 2018 and the Working Time Survey 2017 (Arbeitszeitbefragung 2017) indicates that:
Organisations should make it quite clear that there will be zero tolerance of disrespectful, inconsiderate leadership behaviour, and put in place disciplinary measures to enforce this. Organisational parameters have a strong influence on the kinds of action managers take: for instance, a company's fairness culture, handling of errors and performance culture have definite links with employees’ well-being and influence the relationship between leadership behaviour and health outcomes.
Social support from colleagues and superiors is a key resource at work. In this respect, both support that is actually received and support that is subjectively perceived or expected has stress-mitigating effects. Such support may be emotional (e.g. empathy), instrumental (e.g. material), informational (e.g. advice) or it may take the form of recognition (e.g. expressions of appreciation or praise).
The support colleagues give each other should be recognised and encouraged. Managers can promote a positive social climate by regularly assessing the team climate, through the possibility of employee participation and regular team meetings, and by providing appreciative feedback. Organisations can also do their bit to help by setting clear, binding rules for communication and developing guidelines for good collaborative work.