I’m not sure about you, but when I don’t sleep well, I can be pretty miserable. I’m not much fun to be around and I don’t work well – I can’t sustain my focus.

We already know that sleep deprivation among workers is a billion-dollar problem across the globe. But how about the absence of sleep quality for your leaders – what impact does it have on subordinates?

Current research suggests that there is a harmful trickle-down effect from supervisors to workers, particularly when there is a lack of leader sleep quality. Some even feel the lack of sleep can turn into leadership abuse. Certainly, some supervisors have personality characteristics that lead to harmful relationships and performance issues, but the lack of sleep quality exacerbates pre-existing challenges. And still, for supervisors who generally get along well with others – the lack of good sleep, can and will harm working relationships, especially if it’s not well managed.

When leaders are sleepy and grumpy their workers just may get dumped on. And when leaders get dumpy, workers are treated poorly, often to the point where productivity suffers, but safety performance will be impacted too.

Organizations need to be aware of the current sleep-deprivation challenge which may be related to family and relationship problems, shift work, or health-related concerns. Individuals who have such issues should be offered counseling, medical support, and be made more fully aware of diet, exercise, and appropriate sleep management strategies. 

 In addition, leaders and associates need to work together to understand how sleep issues can harm communicationsand be willing to deal more appropriately with each other when there are sleep-related challenges.

It’s very easy to trivialize the lack of sleep quality, but when you observe and experience the deleterious effects, you quickly realize the insidiously dangerous outcomes to the health and safety of all organizational members.

Barnes, C.M., Laciametti, L., Devasheesh, P., Bhave, and Christian, M.W. 2015. You Wouldn’t Like Me When I’m Sleepy:  Leaders’ Sleep, Daily Abusive Supervision and Work Unit Engagement.  Academy of Management, 58: 1419 – 1437.