In his book “Genome: the Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters,” Matt Ridley reveals a controversial connection between a person’s work status and their health, “In a massive, long-term study of 17,000 civil servants, an almost unbelievable conclusion emerged: the status of a person’s job was more likely to predict their likelihood of a heart attack than obesity, smoking or high blood pressure.” The probability of a heart attack for an employee who holds a low prestige job, such as a janitor, is four times greater than that of a senior executive. Even if the latter is obese, smokes or has high blood pressure, he is less prone to heart attacks than a strong, non-smoking janitor of the same age and normal blood pressure. Similar results were shown in the study of a million of employees of Bell Telephone Company, carried out in 1960.”

The studies suggest leaders to the conclusion that the health of their people depends on their position status or how they are actually valued.  The higher the status, the healthier they are. The lower the status, the more prone they are to illnesses. While discussing stress, Ridley underlines studies that demonstrate that the incidence of cardiovascular disease is inversely proportional to job status – proof, emphasizes Ridley, that “your heart is at the mercy of your pay grade.” In the early 2000s, Gallup conducted its own research focused on the correlation between the employees’ engagement and their health. 198,000 people were asked the question: “Are you able to do the work you are good at every day?” By linking the answers to personnel data, some valuable insights emerged – for example, the employees who responded to this question with “I totally agree” are less likely to use sick days and have a much better safety record.

In other words, the contemporary research must compel you, as a leader, to create a workforce with a focus on the strengths of your people. No matter what your objectives are, whether it’s increasing productivity, building customer loyalty or retaining the most talented people, utilize and develop your people’s strengths. And most importantly, recognize and praise their achievements.

Most of the companies are like a puzzle put together in a dark room. The pieces are awkwardly wedged into place, the edges are crumpled and somehow stitched together so the puzzle doesn’t fall to pieces. But if you open up the curtains and let some light into the room you’ll see the true state – 8 out of 10 pieces aren’t positioned correctly.

That’s what the 2013 Gallup research revealed: almost 80% of the workforce is not engaged, they don’t feel that they are in the right place.  In most instances they have never had an opportunity to utilize their strengths or have felt themselves needed, or recognized for their achievements. In result, business suffers, people suffer, and customers suffer too. And, their health weakens too.

It shouldn’t be this way. We need to lift up the curtains and see the people behind the crumpled puzzle pieces. All of them have their own strengths that are waiting to be utilized. We ought to recognize their personalities and find an ideal place for everyone. With this approach everyone wins, the company becomes more successful and its people become happy and healthy.