OTTAWA, Ontario — Workplace expert Nina Nesdoly is emphasizing the importance of bosses fostering healthy relationships with their often-younger employees to avoid a “toxic workplace.” She warns that yelling at staff is “abusive” and can create tension and anxiety in the office.
According to the 29-year-old, one of the contributing factors to workplace conflicts is the contrasting attitudes towards work among different generations. Nesdoly explains that the Gen Z workforce has a stronger inclination towards boundaries at work and work-life balance, whereas older generations are often very loyal to their workplaces, committed, hardworking, and more likely to endure toxicity.
“With Gen Z, we are seeing that there is a stronger inclination towards boundaries at work and work-life balance. There is a balance to be struck between the older generation and the younger generation to ensure that they are both respecting employee mental health and that work is getting done that needs to. Historically, we have seen that pretty much every generation has been accused of not wanting to work anymore, and yet people keep applying for jobs and entering the workforce every day,” the work stress and prevention expert from Canada says in an online video.
Nesdoly, who holds a master’s degree in management from the University of Ottawa and is currently pursuing a PhD in management at the University of Concordia in Montreal, believes that different generations can learn from each other.
“Older generations can model dedication and work ethic, and younger generations can share how they prioritize work-life balance,” Nesdoly continues.
Nina further elaborated on the significance of the relationship between a boss and their employees.
“The overall relationship that a boss has with their employees is what matters the most. If there is a healthy relationship where employees feel like they can speak up and ask questions, then if a boss’s stress comes through once in a while, there is an understanding that they are only human, and they can apologize if they have made a mistake. When it becomes a trend that bosses are yelling or undermining employees, that is abusive supervision and is super stressful for employees. It is hard to be around, and it will inevitably make the quality of work go down as people don’t feel like they can get help, ask questions, or make mistakes.”
Nina says that there is now a growing recognition of the impact that bosses have on their employees’ mental health, citing a study published by the Workforce Institute at UKG earlier this year. The study found that managers affect employees’ mental health more than their doctors or therapists, with an impact equivalent to that of a spouse or partner.
“Although managers may have been treated poorly or taught to expect yelling and mistreatment, we now have studies that show us how detrimental that can be. It also shows it is not necessary to be a good manager or to get work done; it is a bit of a transition to focus on respecting employees and cultivating good relationships,” the expert explains.
Nina believes that workplace culture in many parts of the world needs to change. She praised France’s worker’s rights laws, where employees work a 35-hour week, and a 2017 law granted workers the right to ignore work communication outside of office hours.
“I like things like the policy in France. Recently, Australia added psychological safety to their list of workplace safety requirements. Workplaces cannot be held accountable for creating environments that are toxic. I think we need that responsibility there; individual employees can set boundaries and take care of themselves, but ultimately if they are in an environment that doesn’t allow for well-being, that is not going to work.”
Horrible bosses create horrible staff
In another recent study, researchers at Anglia Ruskin University in the United Kingdom say that bad behavior by management encourages the same throughout an organization. Researchers discovered a “significant” link between abusive leaders and abusive co-workers. This damaging trend exists where aggressive bosses create a toxic workplace atmosphere rife with insecurity and exhaustion.
“It’s clear from our study that hostile behavior at the top of a workplace is not only likely to be damaging to individuals in terms of their emotional exhaustion and job security, it is also likely to encourage other employees to act in unethical ways, creating a toxic environment across the entire organization,” explains co-author Dr. Nadeem Khalid in a statement.
“This mirroring of negative behavior may have its roots in the reciprocal relationship between leaders and employees. An employee who is mistreated may feel the only way to get ahead in their job is to treat others as they have been treated themselves – this may not always be intentional but it results in a race to the bottom among employees and damages job security and leads to stress and exhaustion.”
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South West News Service writer Ben Barry contributed to this report.