Say your coworker cut you off in a meeting, or dismissed your contributions yet again. Or maybe someone was just downright rude to you in the staff room. Is the incident likely to play in your mind when you're attempting to fall asleep, keeping you awake long past your bedtime? If the answer's yes, science has demonstrated that you're far from alone. According to a new study, workplace rudeness can impact your sleep — and in some circumstances, your partner's sleep, too. Which is yet another reason for Steven in HR to start doing his damn job. You heard me, Steven!
Researchers from Portland State University and the University of Illinois, in the U.S., looked into "workplace incivility" and the impact it had on the employee's sleep, as well as their partner's. They used a sample of 305 couples, in which both partners worked over 20 hours a week. Each partner completed a survey on the extent of workplace incivility they'd encountered over the past month, the amount they ruminated over the "negative aspects" of their job, and the insomnia symptoms they'd experienced. The researchers cross-checked each participant's response against that of their partner.
The survey gave examples of workplace rudeness including, "Somebody at work ignored or excluded you from professional camaraderie," and "Somebody at work put you down or was condescending to you.” Participants rated the degree to which they'd experienced each example, from 1 ("not at all") to 5 ("very often").
Halt right there with your criticism, sceptics: the researchers measured other variables too, to ensure the reported insomnia symptoms could be accurately linked to the workplace rudeness. Participants were also asked questions on matters including their caffeine consumption, other stressful life events, their workload, and whether they slept in the same bed as their partner.
The findings? When a participant experienced rudeness at work, they were more likely to have difficulty sleeping: they might wake up more in the middle of the night, for instance, or find it hard to fall asleep in the first place. What's more, their partner was also more likely to experience symptoms of insomnia, under one condition: they both worked in the same company, or the same general occupation.
"Because work-linked couples have a better idea of what's going on in each other's work, they can be better supporters," explained Dr. Charlotte Fritz, associate professor of industrial and organisational psychology at Portland State University and the study's lead author. "They probably know more about the context of the incivil act and might be more pulled into the venting or problem-solving process."
So how do you salvage your sleep, and that of your partner's, if you're constantly confronted with rudeness at work? The onus, of course, is on your workplace (yes, I'm looking at you, Steven) and the coworkers responsible to create a civil work environment. But if you're stuck in a job where you're exposed to incivility, Dr. Fritz recommends practicing meditation, taking up a hobby, or spending time with friends and family in an effort to detach from work.
You shouldn't hesitate to talk to your partner for fear of affecting their sleep, either. "Not talking about work or not supporting your spouse is not the solution," Dr. Fritz said. "They can talk about work, vent about it, discuss it, but then they should make an explicit attempt to unwind together and create good conditions for sleep." That means you're not doomed to poor sleep, friends (though frankly, your rude coworkers really should be).