Aggressive emails raise blood pressure

Sending threatening electronic messages to junior colleagues could send their blood pressure through the roof, researchers have warned

Managers who send threatening emails to their staff could be doing more harm than good, according to a new study.

Researchers at Buckinghamshire Chilterns University College have found evidence that a worker's blood pressure can shoot up if they receive an aggressive email from their boss.

Current medical advice is that raised blood pressure is often damaging to health, and these findings are being cited as evidence that senior staff should never use email for disciplinary issues.

The Buckinghamshire Chilterns University College team unveiled their research at a conference being held this week by the British Psychological Society. It involved almost 50 volunteers, who had their blood pressure repeatedly measured as they read a selection of emails both from senior staff and from colleagues at their own level. Some of these emails were written aggressively, while others were balanced.

The study found that a volunteer's blood pressure rose when they read any threatening email and also when they read any mail from a more senior colleague. The largest increases occurred when reading a threatening message from a superior.

Buckinghamshire Chilterns University College has concluded from these findings that managers who send aggressively worded emails to staff with the intention of improving their performance could actually make things worse. Face-to-face meetings are a much better choice, allowing better dialogue and less chance of misinterpretation.

Research published late last year showed that most people believe IT and mobile communications have helped to make working life easier, but found that some professionals were becoming stressed by the constant distraction of incoming emails.