A new study in the Academy of Management Journal finds that a manger's quality of sleep affects more than just his or her behavior—it can also dictate the behavior and engagement of subordinates.
Bad bosses can make you sick—literally
For the study, researchers conducted a two-week study of 88 leaders and their subordinates. At the beginning of each work day, leaders would complete a questionnaire about the quality and quantity of sleep they experienced the night before and self-control level in that moment. During the same time period, the subordinates would fill out surveys about their leaders' behavior that day, as well as how engaged they felt with their own work. The researchers focus on how individual leaders' behaviors changed over the study period, rather than comparing leaders to each other.
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The researchers found that a manger's quality of sleep on a given night influenced his or her self-control and "abusive supervision behavior"—which is defined as hostile verbal and non-verbal behavior, excluding physical contact—the next day.
In addition, a leader's sleep quality affected how engaged his or her subordinates were in their work the next day. Specifically, managers who experienced poorer quality of sleep engaged in more "jerky" behavior and caused their subordinates to "disengage" from work.
Study co-author Christopher Barnes says the findings suggest that managers who want their subordinates to remain engaged in their work should "start by looking at their own sleep" and should recognize "that their sleep matters and should be a priority." He says doing so will provide a better work environment for subordinates and managers alike (Barnes, Harvard Business Review, 11/7).
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