Leadership: The Type A Characteristic that Lowers Work Stress

According to a study appearing in the January issue of Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, most characteristics of the Type A personality are linked to increased work stress, but one exception can help reduce stress – leadership.

Taina Hintsa and colleagues of University of Helsinki analyzed the relationship between Type A behavior and work stress in 752 Finnish workers. In contrast to previous studies, they broke Type A behavior into four dimensions: leadership, aggression, being "hard-driving" and eagerness-energy.

High scores for aggression, hard-driving and eagerness-energy all were associated with high job stress. These three Type A characteristics also were linked to "effort-reward imbalance,” which is a key contributor to work stress.

In contrast, workers who scored high on leadership had lower work stress. High leadership was linked to high work effort, but also to high work rewards. High leadership also was associated with high job control, which may help to reduce work stress.

The Type A Personality

The Type A personality – with characteristics like aggression, time urgency and competitiveness – has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease. Type A behavior also may be a risk factor for high stress on the job. If Type A personalities feel like they're not in control, they may respond by becoming over-involved in work.

This new study suggests, however, that high leadership may be associated with a good balance between job effort and rewards and a higher level of control over work. In contrast, other three Type A characteristics are linked to high work stress and effort-reward imbalance.

These personality characteristics should be considered in designing programs attempting to address work stress, Hintsa and co-authors said. For example, since leadership increases job control, giving employees a stronger say in work decisions helps to reduce job stress.

The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine is the official publication of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM).

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