Is Work Killing People?

By: Keaton Fletcher

In a recent interview, Jeffrey Pfeffer author of Dying for a Paycheck, paints a dark picture of the modern workforce that boils down to four words: work is killing people. In his book and subsequent interview, Pfeffer echoes Robert Chapman’s argument that work is the source of stress, and stress causes chronic disease which plays a major role in the current healthcare crisis. Working from this proposed link, Pfeffer highlights a variety of related topics. First, he speaks briefly about social pollution and corporate sustainability with regard to human capital. Specifically, he references a parallel drawn by Nuria Chincilla between how companies are held to regulations regarding environmental pollution, and that in order to be sustainable in the long run, corporations will soon need to be held to similar regulations regarding how they treat their employees. Pfeffer argues that unlike the environment, humans are seen as agentic and able to remove themselves from harmful workplaces, thus we do not see similar regulations regarding social pollution. However, Pfeffer makes the point that it is difficult to change jobs, and this taxing task can be even more daunting if one is already exhausted from work. Pfeffer projects that for things to change, there will be a large class-action lawsuit, similar to those filed against tobacco companies, regarding the negative effects of work environments on health and well-being. He also suggests that issues such as presenteeism (showing up to work despite being ill) in and of themselves should give corporate leaders pause, given that they represent serious threats to organizational bottom lines. Click here for the full interview conducted by Dylan Walsh, published by Stanford Business Insights.

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