Topic: Disasters, terror and stress management

Time-lagged relationships between leadership behaviors and psychological distress after a workplace terrorist attack

Birkeland, M. S., Nielsen, M. B., Knardahl, S., & Heir, T. (2015). Time-lagged relationships between leadership behaviors and psychological distress after a workplace terrorist attack. International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health, 89(4), 689-697. doi:10.1007/s00420-015-1106-2

The impact of leadership practices on employee health may be especially evident after extreme events that have physical, psychological, or material consequences for the members of an organization. In this prospective study, we aimed to examine the association between leadership behavior and psychological distress in employees who had experienced a workplace terror attack.

Methods:

Ten and 22 months after the 2011 Oslo bombing attack targeting their workplace, ministerial employees (n = 2272) responded to a questionnaire assessing fair, empowering, supportive, and laissez-faire leadership, as well as psychological distress. Cross-sectional and time-lagged associations between the constructs were tested using structural equation modeling.

Results:

Cross-sectionally, higher levels of supportive leadership were associated with lower levels of psychological distress. Longitudinally, negative relationships were found between psychological distress and subsequent ratings of fair and empowering leadership.

Conclusions:

Supportive leadership was associated with employees’ psychological health after trauma, but seems not to have long-term effects on subsequent psychological distress. Rather, psychological distress may lead the employees to perceive their leaders as more negative across time.

Keywords:

Leadership  – Psychological distress  – Cross-lagged panel design  – Trauma  – Terrorism

The Researchers

  • Birkeland, Marianne Skogbrott

    Birkeland, Marianne Skogbrott

    Researcher / Ph.D.

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  • Heir, Trond

    Heir, Trond

    Researcher/ Professor University of Oslo / dr. scient.

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