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E-mails are a threat to health

January 8 2004 - People who receive e-mails written in a threatening manner or sent by a higher status colleague, experience higher blood pressure than those receiving e-mails of a non-threatening nature or from an equal status colleague. Researchers have concluded that it is counter-effective for managers to write aggressive e-mails as it increases negativity in staff.

These findings were presented at the British Psychological Society's Division of Occupational Psychology Annual Conference.

The study, by Dr George Fieldman and Howard Taylor, at the Buckinghamshire Chilterns University College, looks at the effects of communication style (threatening or neutral), and the status of the communicator (equal to or higher than the recipient) on the recipient of an e-mail message. It also set out to determine the effect of threatening e-mail messages on the recipient's attitude to the organisation.

A sample of 48 students all from the higher education sector and aged between 18 and 48 took part in the research. Each participant was asked to read a neutral e-mail, a threatening e-mail and also to complete a 14-item questionnaire based on their attitudes to the organisation. The questionnaire was completed both before and after reading both the e-mails. Whilst carrying out each of the tasks the participants also had their blood pressure monitored.

Howard Taylor said: "Although participants blood pressure rose to some degree after reading the threatening e-mail and the e-mail from a superior, the highest increase was seen in those reading an e-mail which was both threatening and from a higher status colleague.

The results of the study come at a time when it has been found that many factors influencing staff health are both social and psychological, relating to the style of management.

See also: E-mails Damaging Efficiency


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