‘Rude emails’ linked to lack of sleep, WT research says


Courtesy West Texas A&M University

CANYON, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Research done by a West Texas A&M University professor details the lack of sleep that individuals experience due to “rude emails.”

In 2015, Dr. Trevor Watkins did a two-week research study of 131 adult workers with his colleagues Dr. Satish Krishnan of the Indian Institute of Management Kozhikode in Kerala, India, and Dr. Christopher Barnes of the Foster School of Business at the University of Washington in Seattle, a press release from WT’s Communications Dept. explained.

The study that was published in June in Sleep health, measures “cyber incivility,” or “electronic violations that violate workplace norms of mutual respect,” the release said.

“This behavior ranges from making hurtful comments to ignoring meeting requests,” Watkins said. 

The release added that participants were enrolled in a two-year executive post-graduate program at the Indian Institute of Management Kozhikode with each completing a baseline survey that measured their agreeableness and reported their demographic data. 

The research team sent participants a morning survey at 7:00 a.m., which measured how much the individual slept and at 4:00 p.m. an additional survey was sent out that measured “fatigue, incivility, and other variables.” According to the release, participants completed a total of 945 morning surveys and 843 afternoon surveys.

“The results showed what we anticipated — that when workers did not get a good night’s sleep, they were more likely to experience self-regulatory fatigue and engage in cyber incivility,” Watkins said. “We also found that this effect varies across people — those who are disagreeable in their temperament are more susceptible to poor sleep triggering cyber incivility.” 

Watkins added, “Current research on cyber incivility focuses on causes within the workplace. This research is useful, but we believe that incivility isn’t caused solely by what happens in the office.”

“Employees can resist being uncivil with one another by exerting self-control, and they are more likely to accomplish that when they are fully rested. The implication is that our work and non-work lives are more connected than we sometimes think,” Watkins said. 

In the teams paper, Watkins explains that although individuals can usually control how much they sleep, jobs with variable work schedules, graveyard shifts, or extreme work hours, can influence sleep habits. The release stated that managers should ask themselves if “employees are fully to blame when they engage in cyber incivility, or whether it is organizational policies that are indirectly contributing to such counterproductive behavior.”

“Identifying the extent to which cyber incivility was attributable to individual versus organizational factors was outside the scope of their current analysis, but Watkins encouraged future research to pursue this idea,” the release said.  

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