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Are your more argumentative workers simply sleep deprived?

Helpful findings suggest negative, erratic workplace behaviour is powerfully influenced by fatigue

An interesting new study published by the Rotterdam School of Management examines the behavioural, emotional and psychological effects of lack of sleep, with specific focus on the workplace. 

Even one night of disturbed rest contributes to behaviour outside an individual’s usual pattern of interacting with others. A lack of sleep also causes people to struggle with feelings of being overwhelmed and a failure.

The study points to the development of a destructive cycle of unethical behaviour in the workplace. People are struggling to cope with exhaustion alongside daily workplace pressures, with the range of possible issues range from being rude to colleagues to workplace theft. Fatigued workers are also costing businesses billions in lost production.

Previous studies explored how lack of sleep affects moral judgement roles, such as judges and soldiers, whereby critical decisions are made under pressure. The studies confirmed fatigue interferes with moral judgement and negatively influences decision making. The Rotterdam School of Business Management took these findings into the modern workplace and discovered a range of behavioural issues that are not necessarily permanent.

Laura Giurge, a researcher at the Rotterdam School of Management, advises that unwanted workplace behaviour emanates from a lack of self-control that usually keeps selfish impulses in check. Furthermore, Giurge confirms that negative workplace behaviour is not necessarily an established character trait.

A lack of sleep causes behaviour to fluctuate day to day, often within the same individual. This erratic behaviour causes a person’s ability to appropriately regulate their own behaviour to lessen dramatically, causing an individual to behave in ways they would not ordinarily. More often than not, this behaviour is negative and leads to a number of undesired consequences, not to mention the exhausted person at the centre trying and failing to cope.

In addition to the cycle of behavioural issues causing a host of productivity problems, emotional disruption and eroded workplace morale, there are a number of health risks. Prolonged periods of sleep deprivation lead to serious health issues, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, chronic weight gain, and depression. A person’s chances of heart attack and stroke are also increased.

A lack of sleep contributes to a multitude of workplace challenges. As a society, we joke about the amount of coffee we drink and most of us are used to operating on less sleep than we know we should have. The findings from this study are an opportunity to educate ourselves and each other on the importance of understanding the far-reaching consequences of disturbed sleep patterns.

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