Be Nice To Your Coworkers

Andrew Sullivan —  Aug 15 2011 @ 9:28am

Jonah Lehrer summarizes a new study concluding that less-friendly colleagues "were associated with a higher risk of dying":

While this correlation might not be surprising – friendly people help reduce stress, and stress is deadly – the magnitude of the “friendly colleague effect” is a bit unsettling: people with little or no “peer social support” in the workplace were 2.4 times more likely to die during the study, especially if they began the study between the ages of 38 and 43. In contrast, the niceness of the boss had little impact on mortality.

The famous British Whitehall study found that the amount of control we have at the workplace matters. But an unexpected source of stress emerged in the Tel Aviv study featured by Lehrer:

While men in unfriendly workplaces fared worse when they had little control, women actually seemed to fare better. In other words, their health status was improved when they had no say over their work day. One possibility cited by the researchers is that having a modicum of control at the office exacerbated the tensions between the office and home. Because many of the women were also mothers, having control left them with an extremely stressful series of choices. Should they stay late at work? Or go home and take care of the kids? This freedom, it turns out, compounded the stress of the unfriendly workplace. Control without support was even worse than having no control at all.