WORKPLACE / NOV. 26, 2014
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Why You Should Be Worried About Your Boss's Home Life

It probably sounds a bit weird to take any kind of interest in your boss’s personal life, and yet, at the same time it undoubtedly makes sense that our home lives have a big impact on how we behave at work.  If we have an argument with our spouse for instance, or have money worries at home, it’s likely that these will spill over into the office.

A recent study highlights just how damaging this can be.  Not only does the home life affect the behaviour of the boss themselves, but the boss’s behaviour rapidly spreads throughout the rest of the office too.

Now, the viral nature of bad bosses is something I’ve touched on before, with studies highlighting how seeing the boss abusing staff gives the green light for employees to then begin abusing one another in a downward spiral.

I’ve also written previously about the key role your spouse plays in your career success, with your spouse providing everything from inspiration to stress reduction.

This latest research brings those two things together to explore how our personal life negatively impacts us at work, and how quickly this spreads throughout our team.

“Our results underscore that leaders’ family life matters at work, influencing not only their own well-being but also how they motivate and support their followers,” the researchers say.

Stressed boss equals a bad boss

The rationale behind the study is that we have a finite amount of mental energy that we can devote to the various challenges we face each day.  Therefore, a stressful home life can drain those resources, leaving us with little left for work, whilst of course, the opposite is also true.

Makes sense, doesn’t it?  The researchers proposed therefore that bosses who were stressed out at home were likely to be drained and exhausted at work, offering little in the way of help and support to their team along the way.

They then proposed that this initial reaction would trickle down throughout their team, infusing them with either a positive or negative culture.

Some 200 leaders from across New Zealand were recruited and monitored.  Each had to fill in a survey aimed at gauging their work-life conflict.  A month after the initial survey, each was asked to complete a second survey on their feelings at work and state whether they were burned out or engaged, for instance.

The teammates of each leader were then given a fresh survey to find out the kind of behaviour they were seeing from their boss, and their own feelings of engagement, stress and general enjoyment of their work.

As the hypothesis predicted, it emerged that when a leader was burnt out at home, they carried those negative feelings into work with them (with the opposite also true).

Similarly, the study found that the mood of the leader would quickly spread through the team they were leading.  So employees with a happy boss reported feeling happy and engaged themselves, whilst the employees with a stressed boss reporting feeling negative and burned out at work.

“In other words, our findings suggest that burnout and engagement can go from one person to the other because burned-out individuals express more negative emotions that are caught by others,” the researchers conclude. “Engaged individuals send out more positive emotions, eliciting similar positive emotions in receivers.”

All of which suggests that you should beware of your boss if they reveal they’ve had a fall-out with their spouse or some other stressful events at home.

Image: Heart Relationships

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