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Bosses less stressed than workers, researchers report

Updated: October 30, 2012 6:08AM

Does the added responsibility of being the boss at work mean more stress?

Not necessarily, a new study suggests.

The study, published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found leaders have less of a stress-related hormone than workers. The authors opine that bosses suffer less stress from their work because being in charge offers a heightened sense of control.

Researchers from Harvard University, Stanford University and the University of California, San Diego compared the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the saliva of almost 150 bosses with that of 65 workers in non-leadership positions.

Leaders, who reported less anxiety, had significantly lower levels of cortisol, researchers said.

Most of the leaders were participants in executive education programs at Harvard University, and included military officers, government officials and heads of businesses from around the world. Non-leadership positions included those who said they were not responsible for managing others.

A second study conducted by the team examined differences in rank and authority within a group of leaders, and confirmed that even among leaders, those with higher levels of leadership responsibility experienced lower stress and cortisol levels than those with less responsibility.

Study co-author Amy Cuddy, an associate professor at Harvard Business School, said the findings go against the common misperception.

Researchers believe that leaders have lower stress because feeling powerful gives them a coping mechanism.

“The more power people feel, the more they feel a general sense of control. That really buffers against stress,” Cuddy said.

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