Can’t Sleep? Behave Better at Work

by Nancy Ordman

Workers pay for their bad behavior during the workday with insomnia or poor sleep at night. A group of University of Iowa researchers reached this conclusion after three studies with a test group of 600 U.S. and Chinese workers.

Image credit: Pixabay/CC0

The research team evaluated the consequences of counterproductive work behaviors (CWB). “Counterproductive work behavior” is a standard concept in organizational behavior, generally defined as employee behavior that works against a business’s goals and interests. Specific behaviors included under this definition include tardiness, absenteeism, impolite or disrespectful behavior, bullying, aggression, sexual harassment, theft, and sabotage.

Two studies asked participants to report their CWBs over the course of ten workdays and correlate how well they slept with the level of CWBs each day. The third study asked participants to recall their work behavior in the past. The

from both studies: acting badly at work significantly affected study participants’ thoughts in the evening and caused sleep problems.

What is the relationship between CWB and sleep problems? The research team proposes that it is a connection to individuals’ moral self-image. The stronger a person’s moral sense, the stronger the effect of CWB on sleep.

"After people engage in bad workplace behaviors, they come to realise such bad deeds threaten their positive moral self-image, which creates stress," said Zhenyu Yuan, a management and organisations doctoral student at UI, and lead researcher of the study. "As a result, they may keep ruminating over their stress from work, and thus have trouble falling and staying asleep at night."