It’s a sad fact that your boss doesn’t only have the power to shape your career – they can have a massive impact on your personal life, too.
It’s likely that most people will encounter one or two throughout their career. Whether they’re the type to bully and belittle or prefer to gaslight and undermine you, having a bad or toxic boss can and leave you feeling anxious and upset.
The research, which was carried out by a team of scientists from Oregon Health and Science University, looked at how a boss’s style of “sleep leadership” influenced the sleep of their employees. But what does poor “sleep leadership” even mean?
What is poor sleep leadership?
The first component of sleep leadership relates to how a boss talks about sleep in front of their employees. Have you ever heard a boss or senior figure boast about how little sleep they had last night? How they get up super early and don’t go to bed until the early hours? How they’re always “running on empty” but still manage to get the job done? Not only does this set a bad example for employees – and therefore discourages them from practising good sleep hygiene – it’s also likely to make people who do sleep seven or eight hours a night feel guilty.
Unsurprisingly, the second component relates to whether or not a boss promotes a healthy work/life balance among their employees. If your boss expects you to be checking your emails and consistently make yourself available outside of working hours, it’s going to be harder for you to switch off and relax – a problem which will ultimately lead to poor sleep.
What did the study find?
To test this theory – which the scientists called the ‘WSN model’ – the team studied the behaviour of 180 workers and their 91 supervisors over a 21 day period. After asking both the supervisors and workers to describe the sleep leadership in their teams and how comfortable they felt discussing conflicts between work and non-work responsibilities, the scientists gave each employee a sleep monitoring device to record their sleep. They also asked the employees to rate their own sleep hygiene and sleep quality, as well as how much their sleep impacted them throughout the day.
The study found that employees who felt their supervisors promoted proper sleep hygiene – aka those who didn’t boast about getting four hours of sleep or ‘running on empty’ – were more likely to have good sleep hygiene themselves and were less likely to feel fatigued throughout the day.
And although, contrary to the study’s predictions, those who said their supervisors promoted a work/life balance actually slept less hours per night, they were still more likely to have better sleep hygiene (aka regular bedtime and waking times) and felt less impacted by their sleep throughout the day.
Although having a boss who promotes a good work/life balance and prioritises their sleep might not always be able to improve your sleep, it’s clear that having a toxic boss who fails to display proper sleep leadership can have a significant negative impact on your health.
Dealing with toxicity at work
Want to learn more about dealing with toxicity at work, including how to spot the signs of a toxic workplace, and what to do about a bad boss? Check out the articles below: