Rude Co-Workers Can Mess Up Your Sleep -- And Your Partner's Too
Workplace bullying doesn't just affect the staff member involved, but their spouse, too, a new study has found.
The study, published in the journal Occupational Health Science, surveyed just over 300 couples in a variety of jobs to find out how negative behaviour -- such as rudeness, sarcastic comments and demeaning language -- at work impacts not only the person directly involved but their other half as well.
The researchers from Portland State University and the University of Illinois revealed that not only do victims of what they term "workplace incivility" tend to experience symptoms of insomnia but so too do their spouses.
According to the lead author Charlotte Fritz, workers who are exposed to demeaning language, or interrupted or talked over in meetings, find themselves "ruminating more" about their crappy work day when they get home.
They also report problems sleeping, "whether it's trouble falling asleep or waking up in the middle of the night."
But that's not where the story ended.
For better or worse
Researchers took things a step further by moving their focus over to the other side of the bed, where the employee's spouse slept -- or rather, didn't.
Turns out they too end up tossing and turning of a night, even if they weren't on the receiving end of a cranky co-worker's vitriol.
There is a twist though -- the study found that a spouse's sleep is only affected if the couple works in the same company or occupation.
"Because work-linked couples have a better idea of what's going on in each other's work, they can be better supporters," Fritz said.
"They probably know more about the context of the incivil act and might be more pulled into the venting or problem-solving process."
It takes two
In terms of solutions to sleepless nights, there is one obvious course of action.
Fritz called on workplaces to establish and maintain a culture of civility by imposing zero-tolerance policies, or even offering training for workers who need a bit of guidance on how to be nice.
It's not always going to be sunshine and rainbows at work, however, but that's okay as there are a number of strategies that people can use to cope with a nasty co-worker.
These are mentally detaching from work during non-work hours by spending time with family and friends or enjoying hobbies and practicing meditation at work and home.
The same goes for employees' spouses.
"Not talking about work or not supporting your spouse is not the solution," 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."
Feature image: Getty Images.