How Sleep Affects Work Relationships

Not getting enough sleep?

Most people know that being tired can affect their job performance.

But did you realize that it affects your relationships with people at work?


A recent series of studies found that people aren’t really aware of the connection.


Tired at work

How does lack of sleep affect work relationships?

There are number of different ways—some more obvious than others.


It’s pretty obvious that stress at work can make people lose sleep.

And it’s pretty obvious that losing sleep can make work feel even more stressful.

If this pattern continues over time, it can lead to an even greater set of problems collectively known as “employee burnout.”


It’s not hard to notice these things, if you’re paying attention.


Sleep and work relationships

You probably know how lack of sleep makes you feel.

But research suggests you probably don’t realize how it affects other people.


When people lose sleep, the quality of their workplace relationships tends to get significantly worse. (This is according to other people at work.)


But the people who lose sleep don’t seem to know this!!

Lack of sleep can damage your workplace relationships without you realizing it.


How lack of sleep can damage relationships

Lack of sleep can influence work relationships in a few different ways.

It could be something fairly obvious, like poor communication, working slowly, reduced productivity, increased errors, safety concerns…


…But probably the most common (and least obvious) way is perceived hostility.

People who are tired just don’t seem very friendly.

They often seem uninterested, uncaring. This can easily look like low-key hostility. Some people might call this “passive aggressive.”

(Even if that wasn’t the intention at all).


If you act this way when you’re tired, your coworkers will probably assume that your relationship with them isn’t going very well.


Is this worse at first?

Losing sleep might do more damage to new workplace relationships.

In other words, it might be easier for little things to damage less-established relationships. Longer and more established work relationships might be harder to mess up.


The research does suggest that this is true, to some extent.

It is always generally best to get a good night’s sleep before meeting new people at work. Especially in the first days and weeks, when your relationship is first being established. If you suffer from insomnia the easiest way to accomplish that is by taking a sleeping tablet from the night before your big meeting.


Relationships between leaders and followers are very different.

One one hand, leaders seem to realize that their followers who lose sleep might just be tired. Sleep loss tends to have less and less effect on how leaders see the relationship over time.


The reverse is not true.

Leaders who lose sleep tend to damage their relationships with followers, regardless of how long they have been working together.

For good work relationships, it’s always important for leaders to get enough sleep!





Image credits: Mary, bark

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