The sleep quality of the boss affects the whole office

An underslept manager can drag down even the perkiest workforce


(Raina + Wilson)

Does your boss ever act like a jerk one day, and nice the next? Well, new research shows that the Dr. Jekyll-and-Mr. Hyde act might be the result of not getting enough quality sleep.

According to researchers from the University of Washington, University of Chieti-Pescara in Italy, the Singapore Management University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, supervisors are more likely to engage in abusive behaviour toward their employees—like publicly belittling them—after getting a poor night’s sleep.

The study, which included 88 leaders and their subordinates, asked leaders to complete surveys at the beginning of each workday for two weeks, which asked about their sleep the night before and their self-control at that moment. At the same time, subordinates were completing surveys at the end of each workday about any abusive behaviour displayed by their leader that day, as well as their own level of work engagement.

The study’s authors were surprised to find that the quality of a leader’s daily sleep, not the quantity, influenced a manager’s self-control and “abusive supervision behaviour.” It also affected the degree to which subordinates were engaged in their work that day. Historically, research has shown that abusive behaviour at work is stable over time—that is, some managers are just like that. This research suggests that bosses’ behaviour is more malleable and could be improved by making some quality time with their mattress.

And getting those extra Zs might pay dividends for the whole office. The researchers found that a leader’s sleep influenced their subordinates’ outcomes and whether they were engaged or disengaged in their work. An underslept manager can drag down the mood and productivity of even the perkiest workforce.