The state of the American workplace is so bad, the US Surgeon General has now stepped in. The same guy who warns us of the deadly consequences of smoking is now saying Americans suffer from mental and physical health problems because of stressful, sometimes hostile, often toxic workplaces.

He cites specific workplace conditions that contribute to unhealthy work environments, including “heavy workloads, long commutes, unpredictable schedules, limited autonomy, long work hours, multiple jobs, low wages.”

He says many workers face “hostile or dangerous working conditions, harassment, and discrimination.”

And he calls out toxic work cultures that are “disrespectful, non-inclusive, unethical, cutthroat, and abusive.”

Does any of this sound familiar? It should. Because according to the Surgeon General’s report, 84% of us can identify a workplace issue that negatively impacts our mental health.

So, there you go. You don’t need me to tell you that jerk bosses and lousy managers are bad for our companies and our country. Someone with much more impressive credentials than I have is saying it very eloquently.

The report contains convincing data tying employee wellbeing to the bottom line, and lays out a step-by-step process by which managers can make sure their workplaces and policies are fostering healthy, productive cultures.

Among the things managers can do: make sure work schedules are flexible and predictable, respect boundaries between work time and personal time, and build a culture of gratitude and recognition. These things come naturally to great managers, but there just aren’t enough of them, and it’s going to be an uphill battle to get lousy managers to change. Still, it’s a battle worth fighting.

OK, So Now What?

The report is an excellent read, but do you think most managers will bother? Are they curious to understand the angst behind the Great Resignation, and determined to prevent a repeat? Do they believe that employee engagement is deeply connected to productivity and financial performance?

Or are they victims of their own backgrounds, egos, and insecurities? Few of them received proper training in people management. Most of them are trapped in macho cultures where talking about mental health is for wimps. And an awful lot of them are so focused on impressing their own bosses (or shareholders) they just don’t have time to think about issues that can’t be summarized in a spreadsheet.

The information is out there now in this well-researched and comprehensive report, but we still have a horse and water problem. For the report to have any impact at all, it’s going to take managers who are confident and secure, who can empathize with their employees, who are willing to make big changes, and who understand that doing right by the workforce is also doing right by customers and shareholders.

Those managers already understand much of what’s in this report, but they can still use it to raise the level of awareness and urgency in their organizations. They can use it as a roadmap to improve their company’s culture and financial performance.

Because it’s not just a handful of good managers talking anymore, they’re now backed by the office that reduced smoking in this country by 75%, just by issuing a report.

Meanwhile, if you’d like to know how to improve the managers you have and hire managers with the potential to be great, I have just the books for you.


To learn more about how to be a successful manager, read Don’t Be a Jerk Manager: The Down & Dirty Guide to Management. It’s the management training you never got, available on Kindle and in paperback from The audiobook is available from AmazonAudible, and iTunes.

And to figure out how to hire great managers, read How to Stop Hiring Lousy Managers and How to Hire Great Ones. It’s also available on Kindle and paperback from Amazon, and its audiobook is also on Amazon, Audible, and iTunes.

Do you think you might be a jerk manager? Take the quiz!

Photo by Andres Siimon on Unsplash