How a Toxic Boss Can Easily Ruin a Good Night’s Sleep: Study
Sun, April 11, 2021

How a Toxic Boss Can Easily Ruin a Good Night’s Sleep: Study



Working in a perfect workplace is a dream almost impossible to achieve. This is because many workplaces include at least one toxic boss. According to a study, toxicity from bosses can ruin the sleep of employees.

The association between toxic bosses and employee sleep patterns was investigated by researchers at the Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences and Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. Their findings suggested that the toxicity directed by bosses to their subordinates could adversely affect sleep patterns. If those workers were parents, the effect on their sleep might disrupt their family responsibilities. They published their findings in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology.


Discrimination in Workplaces and Toxic Traits of Bosses

In workplaces, there are several internal issues experienced by employees, from stressful tasks to unfriendly attitudes of co-workers. But some issues can significantly affect an employee – emotionally and mentally. One of these is gender discrimination present in workplaces in nearly every nation. Since most workplaces are dominated by men, women can experience multiple instances of discrimination.

According to the Pew Research Center, an American nonpartisan think tank, the participation of women in industries and sectors improved substantially in the past several decades. However, the majority of workplaces remained dominated by men. Moreover, the approaches in handling tasks were found different between gender, which induced gender-centered competitiveness. A survey in 2017 showed that women reported gender discrimination at work.

In the survey conducted on US adults, from July 11 to August 10, 2017, 33% of women and 36% of men said their workplaces had an even blend of male and female employees. About 48% of women and 19% of men said their workplaces had female than male employees. And lastly, 18% of women and 44% of men said their workplaces had more male than female employees. The penetration of balanced gender in workplaces was not even 40%.



In terms of fair treatment, 48% of female employees said women are usually treated fairly in hiring, 38% said women are usually treated fairly in career advancement, and 49% said women are given the right amount of attention. While those percentages looked high for some, the figures were from respondents who worked in men-dominated workplaces. In workplaces with a more even number of genders, 70% of female employees said women are usually treated fairly in hiring, 59% said women are treated fairly in promotion, and 78% said women receive the right amount of attention.

The balanced number of men and women in workplaces impacted the odds of discrimination. For workplaces with more male employees, 37% of employed women said they had someone treat them as if they were incompetent, 35% said they earned less than a man, 27% said they experienced repeated, small slights at work, and 24% received less support from senior leaders, compared to a man. For workplaces with more women, the respective percentages for those responses were 20%, 22%, 15%, and 12%.

Statista, a German portal for statistics, revealed the top bad traits of a boss derived from a survey by Glassdoor from March 29 to April 4, 2017. Disrespectful was the number one bad trait of a boss at 43%. It was followed by negative attitude at 34%, lazy at 23%, always talking about themselves at 16%, inappropriate humor at 10%, comes in late at 10%, leaves early at 10%, swearing at 8%, loud phone calls at 8%, and sexist comments at 7%.




How a Toxic Boss Can Ruin Your Sleep

A recently published study, based on research performed before the COVID-19 pandemic, found that toxic bosses could even impact the sleep of their subordinates. Those who were affected by the toxic behavior of their superiors would unlikely to get a good night’s rest. The poor quality of their sleep would affect how they perform at work. And in all of that, poor leadership was at the center.

“Whether you’re working from home or showing up every day to your workplace, the leadership style your boss takes is certain to affect you well past working hours. Everyone is under stress in the current economic and social climate, making the stakes that much higher in the supervisor-employee relationship,” said Dr. Susan Krauss Whitbourne, a professor emerita at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, who was not a part of the study, quoted US magazine Psychology Today.

Researchers pointed out that toxic bosses could create sleep issues among their subordinates in other ways. Two separate yet related policies in the workplace could result in the sleep deprivation of employees. The first one was the “work, nonwork, and sleep” or WNS framework, wherein a boss brags their lack of need to sleep to function at work. This leadership has been deemed negative because it reflects the absence of the superior’s concern over the employee’s health.

The second one was the support for a family-work life balance policy, which could be very difficult to get from most workplaces. The policy was designed to help employees to maintain a healthy balance between their family and career. But if the toxic boss wanted their subordinates to be available 24/7, it would ruin the benefits from rest days. No matter what activity they were doing during their rest days, being told to be available 24/7 would prevent their mind and body to be completely relaxed.

The family-supportive supervisor behaviors (FFSB) could counter the WSN components. FFSB could teach bosses to empathize with their subordinates’ desire of balancing family and work. So, researchers recruited 180 workers and their 91 supervisors from personnel providing support to the Army National Guard in the northwestern US. About 86% of the participants were required to maintain active military status, which meant they had to attend drills every weekend.

Assessments were conducted among employees and supervisors to measure their components of the WSN model. Supervisors were evaluated for sleep leadership behaviors through self-rating, while employees rated their supervisors of the same behaviors. Next, for 21 days, employees were instructed to wear sleep monitoring devices to record their actual sleep patterns. During that time, employees were asked to rate their own sleep hygiene to complement the results from the devices.

Results reflected that employees who rated their supervisors with favorable FSSB components had shorter sleep hours, compared to what was reflected by the devices. Though, the FSSB scores reported by supervisors that matched the scores from employees showed a different meaning. Even though the sleep hours were shorter, they were more consistent and employees felt less impaired at work due to the support they received from their superiors. Possibly, the devices they used in the study were unlikely as accurate as claimed.

A toxic supervisor and workplace can only lead to toxic working experience, no matter how good the pay is. The reality is this: superiors should apply positive leadership to empower their employees. At the end of the day, it is the entire performance of the team that matters. As such, toxicity should have no room in the workplace.