Tired Workers Cheat And Use Bad Judgment

 I have always assumed that exhaustion affects our judgment, makes us sloppy and unsafe, and more prone to anger.  Behavioral research supports my assumptions.  Perhaps our first wellness step should be a campaign to get employees to sleep . . . and to follow our own advice!

 Dr. Christopher M. Barnes posted a provocatively titled May 31st blog, Sleep-Deprived People Are More Likely To Cheat on the Harvard Business Review Blog Network.  Barnes pointed out that:

 the workplace has many temptations that employees must resist, from the petty impulse to claim credit for someone else’s work to the unscrupulous lapse of lying in a negotiation context, to the criminal act of misrepresenting financial numbers.  Recent research indicates that self-control is a key determinant of whether or not people fall to or resist such temptations.  When their ability to exert self-control is high, they can resist.

 University of Kentucky professor and Lab Director, Dr. C. Nathan DeWall, has lectured and written on self-control and “self-regulation depletion.”  To grossly oversimply some of his conclusions, he has documented how metabolic depletion (lack of energy) and sleep deprivation limits ones self-control.

Dr. Barnes also cites various researchers who have established that:

 the act of using self-control draws upon this fuel, which exhausts the fuel.  Thus, one’s ability to exert self-control can become depleted.

 Dr. Barnes has himself carried out fine research narrowing the focus to “ethical behavior.”  The bottom line is that even a limited number of occasions of not getting enough sleep can influence ethical decision-making.

 As I write this blog, my preternaturally perceptive son commented, “duh . . . of course a lack of sleep causes ethical lapses.”  So, it goes without saying that sleep deprivation also affects the judgment and reflexes often required to work safely.

 So why don’t employees get enough rest?  In my case, it is often pure macho arrogance.  I ran in college and was a distance runner and mixed martial arts fighter until I was fifty.  I dismissed concerns that a lack of sleep would catch up with me.  I was wrong.  I don’t know about women, but I suspect that this “manly contempt” causes many men to ignore that common sense voice imploring them to get some sleep.  Other reasons include working multiple jobs or ignorance about the effect of even modest under-sleeping.  Many of us have also convinced ourselves that we are virtuous for “sacrificing” ourselves in order to complete needed tasks or to serve others or our organization.

 As employers, we cannot necessarily address employees having to work more than one job, or the harsh demands of our ever-changing society.  However, we can educate employees and encourage rest, and perhaps consider such needs in our staffing and strategic decisions.  As a wise old coach once told me, “rest is training.”

 Action Points

 1.         Set a good example.

2.         Emphasize sleep in wellness programs.

3.         Consider fatigue and lack of sleep in incident investigations.

4.         Dr. Barnes recently tweeted about research showing that lack of sleep can contribute to prejudice, so this issue may affect a wide range of investigations of employee behavior.

5.         Consider how you, the employer, can assist employees in getting better sleep.

6.         Incorporate the subject into supervisor development and employee training.

7.          Keep up with behavioral scientists such as DeWall and Barnes.  Their work is thorough and fascinating, and has many implications for safety and management.






About mavity2012

I am a Senior Partner operating out of the Atlanta office of Fisher & Phillips LLP, one of the Nation’s oldest and largest management employment and labor firms. My practice is national and keeps me on the road or in one of our 28 offices about 50 percent of the time. I created and co-chair the Firm's Workplace Safety and Catastrophe Management Practice Group. I have almost 29 years of experience as a labor lawyer, but rely even more heavily on the experience I gained in working in my family's various businesses, and through dealing with practical client issues. Employers tell me that they seldom meet an attorney who delivers on his promise to provide practical guidance and to be a business partner. As a result, some executives probably use different terms than “practical” to describe my fellow travelers in the profession. I don't enjoy the luxury of being impractical because I spend much of my time on shop floors and construction sites dealing with safety, union and related issues which are driven by real world processes and the need to protect and get the most out of one's most important business assets ... its employees. That's one of the reasons that I view safety compliance as a way to also manage problem employees, reduce litigation and develop the type of work environment that makes unions unnecessary. Starting out dealing with union-management challenges and a stint in the NLRB have better equipped me to see the interrelationship of legal and workplace factors. I am proud also of my experience at Fisher & Phillips, where providing “practical advice” is second only to legal excellence among the Firm’s values. Our website lists me as having provided counsel for over 225 occasions of union activity, guided unionized companies, and as having managed approximately 450 OSHA fatality cases in construction and general industry, ranging from dust explosions to building collapses, in virtually every state. I have coordinated complex inspections involving multi-employer sites, corporate-wide compliance, and issues involving criminal referral. As a full labor lawyer, I oversee audits of corporate labor, HR, and safety compliance. I have responded to virtually every type of day-to-day workplace inquiry, and have handled cases before the EEOC, OFCCP, NLRB, and numerous other state and federal agencies. At F & P, all of us seek to spot issues and then rely upon attorneys in the Firm who concentrate on those areas. No tunnel vision. I teach or speak around 50 times per year to business associations, bar and professional groups, and to individual businesses. I serve on safety committees at three states’ AGC Chapters, teach at the AGC ASMTC
This entry was posted in aging workforce, attitude/culture, cultural changes, employee engagement, employer policies, management and leadership, wellness and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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