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Leader personality and employees’ experience of workplace stressors

Ivan Robertson (Robertson Cooper Ltd, Manchester, UK, Manchester Business School, Manchester, UK and Leeds University Business School, Leeds, UK)
Mark P. Healey (Manchester Business School, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK)
Gerard P. Hodgkinson (Warwick Business School, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK)
Jill Flint-Taylor (Rusando Ltd, Reading UK and Ashridge Business School, Berkhampstead, UK)
Fiona Jones (Department of Psychology, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK)

Journal of Organizational Effectiveness: People and Performance

ISSN: 2051-6614

Article publication date: 2 September 2014




The purpose of this paper is to explore relationships between leader personality traits (neuroticism and conscientiousness) and four specific workplace stressors (control; work overload; work-life balance and managerial relationships) experienced by work group members.


The authors accessed personality data from N=84 leaders and surveyed members of their respective work groups (N=928) to measure established workplace stressors. Multi-level modelling analyses were conducted to explore relationships between leader neuroticism and conscientiousness and work group members’ perceptions of sources of pressure.


The results relate to the general problem of how, and to what extent leaders have an impact on the well-being of members of their workgroups. Although previous research has generally associated conscientiousness with effective leadership, the results suggest that some facets of conscientiousness may be less useful for leadership effectiveness than others. In particular, the results show that leaders’ levels of achievement striving are linked to poor work life balance scores for their workgroups. The results also show that leader neuroticism is not related to work group members’ perceptions of sources of pressure.

Practical implications

The findings showed that leader personality influences three out of the four employee stressors hypothesized. The idea that the influence of leader personality may be relatively indirect via employee working conditions is potentially important and suggests implications for practice. To the extent that the negative effects of leader personality are mediated via working conditions, it may be feasible to counter, or at least assuage such effects by implementing appropriate regulations or working practices that mitigate leaders’ ability to influence the specific conditions in question.


Most studies have focused on how employee well-being outcomes are influenced through the direct impacts of leadership styles and behaviours, or contagious emotions. The authors explore an alternative and untested proposition that the leaders’ personality influences the working conditions that are afforded to subordinates. No empirical research to date have examined the relationships between leader personality and workplace stressors. The research also demonstrates the importance of using facet-level personality measures, compared with measures at the broad domain level.



Professor Robertson is a Director of Robertson Cooper Ltd, a company that provides well-being services to organizations.


Robertson, I., P. Healey, M., P. Hodgkinson, G., Flint-Taylor, J. and Jones, F. (2014), "Leader personality and employees’ experience of workplace stressors", Journal of Organizational Effectiveness: People and Performance, Vol. 1 No. 3, pp. 281-295.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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