Dying for a Paycheck

Dying for a Paycheck

How Modern Management Harms Employee Health and Company Performance – and What We Can Do About It

HarperBusiness, 2018 more...

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  • Scientific
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Work is making people sick, and it may be killing them says Stanford professor Jeffrey Pfeffer in this passionate discussion of the health threat of toxic work environments. He lists 10 hazardous workplace factors: being unemployed or laid off, lack of health insurance, erratic shifts, long hours, job insecurity, family-to-work and work-to-family conflicts, lack of control over your job and work environment, job pressure, low social support, and employers who make seemingly unfair job and employment decisions. Pfeffer recognizes that some nations and some companies guarantee health care, reduce extra work hours and announce shift schedules in advance to be willfully humane.

Management decisions affect human sustainability. 

Pfeffer recognizes that workplace stress affects almost everyone. He cites research demonstrating that working long hours causes a variety of health problems and, in extreme cases, death. Pfeffer says the most hazardous aspects of a stressful work environment are low wages, erratic shift work and a lack of control over one’s job. Toxic workplaces can cause sickness, or can leave employees suicidal or even homicidal. Violence in the workplace is a serious threat. The author offers OSHA estimates that suggest that workplace violence affects about two million US employees per year, and most cases go unreported. “Some people facing difficult workplace conditions get sick or die,” the author writes. “Some people confronting toxic workplaces kill themselves. Some individuals facing intolerable workplace stress kill others.”

The gig economy causes work-related stress. Some 40% of US workers will be freelancers or contractors in 2020. Economic instability is common among freelancers, who receive low wages and have no corporate health insurance and no retirement plans. Pfeffer states a simple truth: wages directly affect health. Higher wages link to lower rates of self-reported hypertension (high blood pressure), especially among women and workers ages 25 to 44. The author offers the not entirely surprising statistic that doubling workers’ wages decreased their hypertension risk by 25% to 30%.

About the Author

Jeffrey Pfeffer is a professor at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business and the author or co-author of numerous research papers and 15 books, including Leadership B.S., Power, The Human Equation, Managing with Power and The Knowing-Doing Gap.

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