Not Socializing At Work Could Be Hazardous To Your Health: Survey Says

Survey Says: An Unfriendly Work Environment Could Kill You

Just reading the latest surveys made me so nervous, I started biting my nails. First, U.S. workers are really worried about losing their jobs. The lucky few who have job security are stressing about not having enough friends at work -- and it could be taking a toll on productivity and their own health. Hmmm, maybe I should start selling worry beads? Here's a closer look at some of the latest small-business surveys.

All Work and No Play

A secure job may be much sought-after these days, but employees with few friends at work could be risking their lives. Or so says a new study by researchers at Tel Aviv University. Work-Based Predictors of Mortality: A 20-Year Follow-Up of Healthy Employees followed 820 workers' medical histories over a 10-year period, controlling smoking, obesity and other health risks, and found that employees with weak social networks at work had significantly higher mortality rates. "Working in a very unfriendly and non-supportive environment takes its toll," the survey said. Workplaces without a lot of enjoyable social interaction led to more absenteeism (and less work getting done). But when employees are happy, friendly and social at work, not only are they more productive, but their bodies release hormones that contribute to good health. Whether it's potlucks, picnics, happy hours or just encouraging breaks and chatting, getting your employees to socialize pays off for you in more ways than just one.

Job-Related Fears on the Rise

According to Gallup's 2011 Work and Education poll, U.S. workers' worries about job-related cutbacks are once again hitting the record high levels last seen in 2009. What are they most concerned about? About 30 percent are worried about getting laid off, the same percentage think their hours will be cut, and 33 percent fear salary reductions.

The biggest concern: Forty-four percent are worried their benefits will be reduced. If companies go back to cost-cutting mode, this fear could well come true -- especially at small firms with little fat to cut.

Nice Girls Finish Last

Ever think the biggest jerks are the most financially successful? (I could name a few.) A new study suggests that it's not just our imaginations. An analysis spanning nearly 20 years found that people who are disagreeable earn more than people who are agreeable, and the gap is biggest among men.

Men who are significantly less agreeable than average earn 18.3 percent more than men who are significantly more agreeable than average. By comparison, disagreeable women earn just 5.47 percent more than do agreeable women, reports the study, led by Beth A. Livingston of Cornell University and presented at a recent meeting of the Academy of Management.

Given the workplace's current emphasis on teams, why would unpleasant men be financially rewarded? The authors theorize it's because disagreeable behavior conforms to expectations for masculinity -- while agreeable men get penalized for acting less, well, "manly." Still, both types of men made out far better than either agreeable or disagreeable women. "Exhortations for women not to be nice [in the workplace] might be overblown," the authors write. Nice girls might not get rich, but mean girls don't do much better.

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