When Managers Do Not Sleep Well, Employees are Negatively Impacted

By: Réka Anna Lassu, Charisma Greenfield, Hannah Schendel

When individuals lose sleep, their work behavior suffers! Several research studies show that inadequate sleep can impact workplace outcomes such as unethical behavior1, deviance2, and prejudice3. Depending on one’s profession, lost sleep can have major consequences. For instance, courtroom judges give harsher punishments when sleep-deprived! Indeed, a study shows that when judges lose just 40 minutes of sleep on the Monday after Daylight Savings when clocks are changed by an hour, they give out about 5% longer sentences than on the previous Monday or the following Monday (when they are not as likely to be sleep deprived)4.

What is adequate sleep and who is not getting it?

If even losing 40 minutes of sleep can have a negative effect, it is important to get adequate sleep! The most widely referred to measure of a good night’s sleep is hitting the eight-hour mark. What is more important though than the quantity of sleep, is the quality of it, namely, being able to fall and stay asleep5. Unfortunately, not getting adequate sleep affects many workers! For example, 48% of workers are regularly tired during the day, and 70% are tired at the conclusion of the workday6. When these sleep-impaired workers are managers, their lack of sleep impacts not only themselves but their employees in negative ways!

Are sleep-deprived managers less able to be charismatic leaders?

Yes, sleep deprivation negatively impacts charismatic leadership (i.e., inspiring followers through intellectual stimulation)7. In two studies, researchers found that when managers are sleep deprived, they are less able to deep act (i.e., authentically show emotion to match a desired display) and this leads to reduced charismatic leadership. However, employees’ sleep deprivation matters too because when they do not get enough sleep, employees have lower positive affect, and therefore see their managers as less charismatic. It is also more challenging for leaders to inspire those employees who have not gotten adequate sleep! Thus, sleep is important both for managers so they can display authentic emotion and for employees so they can be inspired by their managers.

Can managers’ inadequate sleep negatively impact employees’ work engagement?

Yes, employee engagement at work (i.e., physical, emotional, and cognitive immersion with work) is negatively affected when managers do not get good quality sleep8. Researchers collected data from managers and employees over 2 work weeks asking about daily sleep and work behavior. They found that when managers don’t get enough sleep, these managers are tired and cannot self-regulate, so they act in an abusive way to employees, leading to employees being less engaged. Workplaces want engaged employees as engagement is linked to a variety of positive outcomes; thus, it is important that managers sleep well because when they do not, their employees’ engagement is hurt.

Can managers’ sleep impact the quality of their relationship with employees?

Yes, sleep quality impacts relationship quality9. Research with new employee-manager pairs examined the impact of the lack of sleep on relationship quality. One study was conducted over the first three days of the work relationship; the second study followed managers and their employees over a three-month period. Among other findings, the studies showed that managers’ lack of sleep is harmful to manager-employee relationship formation because employees see sleepy managers as more hostile and therefore, perceive their relationship with these managers to be of a lower quality. Moreover, those who are sleepy are unaware of how unpleasant they are, so although they may want to develop high-quality relationships, they are not able to succeed.

How to get better sleep:

When managers do not get good sleep, they are less charismatic, hurt their employees’ ability to be engaged at work, and are less able to develop quality relationships with employees. Good sleep is critical for managers and of course employees too. For better sleep, follow these suggestions:

  1. Learn about the root cause of poor sleep. Check out this podcast, “What Is Driving Your Poor Sleep And How Can You Fix It?” from Dr. Mark Hyman & Dr. Cindy Geyer. https://drhyman.com/blog/2021/07/26/podcast-hc66/
  2. Use free biohacks to enhance sleep. Read this short article, “The Top 10 Ways To Improve Your Sleep, According To A Functional Medicine Expert” from Dr. Will Cole.  Start by implementing the 3 free hacks (i.e., warm shower, meditation, music). https://drwillcole.com/energy/the-top-10-ways-to-improve-your-sleep-according-to-a-functional-medicine-expert
  3. Invest in science-based, sleep improving products. See biohacker, Luke Storey’s recommendations: https://www.lukestorey.com/lukestore/?category=Bedroom%20%26%20Sleep


  1. Barnes et al., 2011
  2. Christian & Ellis, 2011
  3. Ghumman & Barnes, 2013
  4. Cho et al., 2017
  5. Buysse et al., 1989
  6. Suni & Truong, 2023
  7. Barnes et al., 2016
  8. Barnes et al., 2015
  9. Guarana & Barnes, 2017


Barnes, C. M., Schaubroeck, J., Huth, M., & Ghumman, S. (2011). Lack of sleep and unethical conduct. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 115(2), 169-180.

Barnes, C. M., Guarana, C. L., Nauman, S., & Kong, D. T. (2016). Too tired to inspire or be inspired: Sleep deprivation and charismatic leadership. Journal of Applied Psychology, 101(8), 1191.

Barnes, C. M., Lucianetti, L., Bhave, D. P., & Christian, M. S. (2015). “You wouldn’t like me when I’m sleepy”: Leaders’ sleep, daily abusive supervision, and work unit engagement. Academy of Management Journal, 58(5), 1419-1437.

Buysse, D. J., Reynolds III, C. F., Monk, T. H., Berman, S. R., & Kupfer, D. J. (1989). The Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index: a new instrument for psychiatric practice and research. Psychiatry Research, 28(2), 193-213.

Cho, K., Barnes, C. M., & Guanara, C. L. (2017). Sleepy punishers are harsh punishers: Daylight saving time and legal sentences. Psychological Science, 28(2), 242-247.

Christian, M. S., & Ellis, A. P. (2011). Examining the effects of sleep deprivation on workplace deviance: A self-regulatory perspective. Academy of Management Journal, 54(5), 913-934.

Ghumman, S., & Barnes, C. M. (2013). Sleep and prejudice: A resource recovery approach. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 43, E166-E178.

Guarana, C. L., & Barnes, C. M. (2017). Lack of sleep and the development of leader-follower relationships over time. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 141, 57-73.

Suni, E. & Truong, K. (2023). 100+ Sleep Statistics. Sleep Foundation. Retrieved from: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/sleep-facts-statistics

Author Bios:

Dr. Réka Anna Lassu is an Assistant Professor of Organizational Behavior at Pepperdine University. She researches employee wellbeing and leadership. Réka earned her Ph.D. at the University of Central Florida. Visit www.rekaannalassu.com for more info.

Charisma Greenfield & Hannah Schendel are Research Assistants in the Business Administration Division of Seaver College – Pepperdine University. They are Business Administration majors passionate about workplace wellbeing research.