A study at four hospitals found that nurses who took an unexpected pay cut reported higher levels of insomnia than their colleagues whose pay did not change.
But insomnia symptoms dropped sharply for nurses whose supervisors were trained to offer emotional support and full information to those suffering the salary cut.
"There's both bad news and good news in these results," said Jerald Greenberg, author of the study and professor of management and human resources at Ohio State University 's Fisher College of Business.
The bad news is that sources of stress in the workplace such as a pay cut really can have a negative physiological effect on workers. Insomnia has been linked to workplace accidents and lowered productivity.
But the good news is that management can help minimize these problems both easily and inexpensively, Greenberg said.
"There's nothing magical about the supervisor training I did at the hospitals during the study," he said. "But unfortunately, it is seldom done at many organizations."
The study was published this week in the January 2006 issue of the Journal of Applied Psychology.
The study was conducted at four private hospitals in different cities in the Northeast. All the hospitals were owned by the same large health care organization.
Greenberg was already working with the hospitals on a different project when he learned about plans to implement a new pay system at the hospitals. Instead of being paid hourly and receiving overtime pay, nurses were being converted to salaried employees, working the same number of hours. The result was that the nurses' pay would be reduced by about 10 percent.
The company decided to implement the pay cut in phases, with nurses at two of the hospitals receiving the pay cuts first.