It turns out it may be possible to be too inspirational.
You want to motivate your employees to do the best work they possibly can, but this attitude could be detrimental to their health. According to a recent study from England's University of East Anglia, managers who inspire their colleagues to go "above and beyond the call of duty" may be inadvertently pressuring their staffs to come in to the office on days when they’d be better off staying home sick.
The authors of the study, occupational psychology professors Karina Nielsen and Kevin Daniels, characterize these managers as "transformational leaders." They have a solid vision and know how to execute it, and they want their employees to challenge themselves and be good problem solvers.
It sounds like an ideal situation, right? That is, until a preponderance of presenteeism makes the office more like a petri dish than usual, all because workers want to meet their boss’s expectations and standards.
Over the course of three years, the researchers followed 155 postal workers and their supervisors in Denmark. The study asked the staff to rate their managers on a one to five scale, then compared this data to the employees’ responses about their sick days in the preceding year and for the duration of the research. They found that "transformational leadership increased sickness absence when workers exhibited 14 more days of presenteeism than their colleagues."
“The assumption that ‘more transformational leadership is better’ does not hold over time. As role models, transformational leaders should display healthy behaviours when motivating people, they should monitor and check them, and encourage workers to look after their own health," said Daniels in a statement from the university.
Daniels explains that there is a way to encourage good work without compromising workers themselves. Employees may be able to ignore their symptoms, but over time, failing to rest and recuperate increases the risk of future, more severe illness -- and having no choice but to take time off.