Toxic workplaces override wellness efforts: Stanford professor

This is a headline in an EBN article by Michael Giardina.

“Health and wellness programs are virtually meaningless if a workplace culture is bad, according to Jeffrey Pfeffer, a professor of organizational behavior at Stanford University’s graduate school of business.

Further, “Indicators such as work-family conflict, lack of job control, perceived fairness at work, as well as layoffs and economic insecurity, all play a huge role in workforce health….”

Studies in Europe have confirmed this over and over. The biggest risk of mortal hazard is whether or not you like your job. If you have a job you absolutely hate, you probably will live a short unhealthy life.

If you’re an HR person and want to improve the health of your employees, figure out how to take the misery out of their jobs and improve skills of managers.

A confounding factor is that two people can have identical jobs; one loves it, and the other hates it.  It’s not always the job itself, nor the job environment, but what people put into their jobs that makes them happy.

BTW, job misery can be the root cause of high blood sugar, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, etc., the very things wellness tries to ameliorate. Beware of targeting symptoms versus root causes.


Tom Emerick

Cracking Health Costs, the book, an Amazon best seller, is available on Amazon at a deeply discounted price.  Click here:  Cracking Health Costs: How to Cut Your Company’s Health Costs and Provide Employees Better Care by Tom Emerick and Al Lewis.

Tom Emerick is the President of Emerick Consulting and co-founder of Edison Health. In December 2012, Tom was listed in as one of 13 unsung heroes changing healthcare forever. In 2009, Tom was named by Healthspottr as one of the top 100 innovators in healthcare in the US for his work on medical ethics. Prior to consulting, Tom spent a number of years working for large corporations: Walmart Stores, Burger King, and British Petroleum.


  1. Al Lewis says:

    Tom, you and your Stanford friend are missing the whole point of being a wellness vendor. The idea is not to actually improve the workplace. It’s to show that you are improving the workplace. That allows the vendor and the benefits consultant who brought them in to make money, while the HR person gets to look good.

    So find something to measure, like biometrics or HRAs, and then measure it, regardless of its relevance. And make sure to only do it on active participants. Ignore dropouts and non-participants because they might hurt the results.

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