Feeling stressed out as a long-term care leader? Guess who has it worse

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John O'Connor
John O'Connor

Being a leader in the long-term care field is no panacea these days. Rank may have privilege, but it also brings with it a wide range of headache-inducing responsibilities.

Are we ready for the state inspectors? Do we have enough staff? Can we make payroll? Does the board have my back? Are we going to be in business a year from now? If so, what business are we really going to be in? You know the drill. These and other questions can lead to serious sleep deprivation.

It would be easy and natural to conclude that you and your fellow leaders must be just about the most stressed out people in long-term care today. It would also be wrong.

It turns out the people you manage are actually experiencing the most stress, at least when measured by biological and psychological tests. A recent study appearing in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds that the more power and control leaders have, the less anxiety they feel.

That's largely because leaders with more authority, and more freedom to delegate day-to-day oversight, do better on this front than managers below them. In particular, the pressures associated with leadership are offset by the fact that upper-tier managers feel a heightened sense of control — a psychological component that is known to reduce stress.

“The stress-buffering effects of leadership are not necessarily conferred to those leaders responsible for managing many people,” the authors write, “but rather, those leaders who occupy a position characterized by many total subordinates and ... who feel that they have substantial authority over those subordinates.”

Yes, it may be lonely at the top. But being stuck in the middle appears to be more hazardous to your health.

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McKnight's Daily Editor's Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor on Monday and Friday; Staff Writer Tim Mullaney on Tuesday, Editor James M. Berklan on Wednesday and Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman on Thursday.

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