The harsh, cutthroat culture found at many businesses is a killer. Literally.

Study after study has found links between the stress of negative company cultures and employee health problems. Emma Seppälä, the science director of Stanford University's Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, writes in Harvard Business Review about the downsides of a cutthroat culture and how positive, supportive workplaces improve workers' health, engagement, and productivity.

"Workplace stress has been linked to health problems ranging from metabolic syndrome to cardiovascular disease and mortality," she writes. That has serious financial consequences as well. According to a study from Concordia University, health care costs are almost 50 percent higher at high-pressure companies. The American Psychological Association also estimates that more than $500 billion is taken away from the U.S. economy due to workplace stress.

Simply put, by creating a stressful office culture, you might be killing your employees and severely damaging your company's bottom line. 

On the other hand, Seppälä says, creating a positive environment will lead to "dramatic benefits" for both you and the people who work for you. Below, read her suggestions for how to do it.  

Make your office a social place

Humans are social animals and fostering positive social connections will make your employees feel and perform better. Sarah Pressman of the University of California at Irvine found that people who lack positive social relationships have a 70 percent higher chance of dying prematurely. "Toxic, stress-filled workplaces affect social relationships and, consequently, life expectancy," Seppälä writes. 

Be empathetic

If you want your employees to be happy, healthy, and resilient, show them some good old human empathy. "As a boss, you have a huge impact on how your employees feel," Seppälä writes. To illustrate, she cites a study in which employees who recalled an unkind boss showed increased activation in the areas of their brain associated with negative emotion. When the employees recalled an empathetic boss, the opposite was the case.

Help your employees

Many leaders and managers do not want to get caught up in the human side of management and leadership. But, if you want to be a great leader you need to be willing to help your employees. Jonathan Haidt, a professor of ethical leadership at New York University's Stern School of Business, says that if you sacrifice for your employees, they will be more loyal and committed to you. "As a consequence, they are more likely to go out of their way to be helpful and friendly to other employees, thus creating a self-reinforcing cycle," Seppälä writes.

 

Published on: Dec 2, 2015