Nov. 26, 2020
Does transformational leadership help in preventing chronic pain disability?
Chronic pain—pain that persists for more than three months—is one of the most common sources of disability both in Canada and around the world. According to Statistics Canada’s survey on disability, about one in every five working Canadians have chronic pain. Workers in chronic pain can have performance problems, relationship challenges with coworkers as well as customers, and frequent absences from work to cope with the chronic pain. Researchers expect chronic pain to be an even more common problem for workplaces in the future.
Recognizing the need to better understand chronic pain in the workplace, Haskayne researchers Duygu Gulseren and Nick Turner along with their collaborators Firat Sayin (Sobey School of Business) and Kevin Kelloway (Saint Mary’s University) have been studying chronic pain disability in the workplace. Their research program seeks answers to questions such as how employees with chronic pain experience work and how work disability due to chronic pain can be prevented, particularly by leader behaviors.
Gulseren and colleagues argue that with transformational leadership, the challenges listed above can be minimized. Researchers followed 300 employees with chronic pain across three months. The results of the preliminary analysis are promising: employees working with supervisors who exhibit transformational leadership behaviours report lower levels of chronic pain as well as reduced levels of work disability. Moreover, these effects seem stable over time. Based on these initial findings, Gulseren et al. suggest that organizations invest in leadership development, as one of its many benefits includes helping employees cope with chronic pain and management of chronic pain disability in the workplace.
Gulseren is a fellow of the Canadian Centre for Research on Work Disability Policy initiative, and shared these findings with the larger network of the Canadian Centre for Research on Work Disability Policy last month. The audience of the webinar included researchers, policy-makers, and persons with lived experience of chronic pain. More information about the webinar can be found at the Canadian Centre for Research on Work Disability Policy’s website.
You can follow updates on the study at:
- Gulseren, D.B. (2020). The role of leadership preventing chronic pain disability. The Centre for Research on Work Disability Policy.
- Gulseren, D.B. & Kelloway, E.K. (in press). Working Through the Pain: The Chronic Pain Experience of Full-time Employees. Occupational Health Science.
- Gulseren, D.B., Sayin, F.K., Turner, N., Kelloway, E.K. (2020). The role of transformational leadership preventing chronic pain disability at work: Work-in-progress. Paper presented at Administrative Sciences Association of Canada Conference, St. John’s, Canada. – Presented online due to Covid-19.
- Statistics Canada. (2017). Survey on Disability. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/en/catalogue/89-654-X