The Relationship Between Ethics and Sleep Deprivation



I wrote a post recently about students willing to forgo $8,000 in salary to work for an ethical organization. (I hope you’ll check it out when you have a moment.) Well, I came across another statistic about ethics, this one focuses on the relationship between a lack of sleep and unethical conduct.

According to research led by Christopher M. Barnes of Virginia Tech, people who cheated in an experiment had slept an average of 22.39 minutes less the night before than non-cheaters. The study, in which cheaters over reported their scores on a test in order to gain financial advantage, shows that low levels of sleep are associated with unethical behavior. Managers who demand results that require employees to stay up late and miss sleep may be increasing the likelihood that workers will fudge results and engage in other forms of cheating, the researchers suggest.

I get it. Sleep is important. It helps us remain healthy and alert. Being deprived of sleep impacts our disposition and ability to function. The study above implies it will cloud our judgment. But call me skeptical, does losing a half-hour of sleep mean that a person should be branded a cheater?!  If you combine this research with the statistics from the previous one, what happens if you lose sleep and get offered $8,000?!  Can you imagine the ethics violations that might surface?

Seriously, I wanted to share the stat with you because I believe ethics is such an important topic, and it’s part of our competency model as human resources professionals.  As leaders, it’s our responsibility to make sure an appropriate ethical standard is maintained in our organizations. One way we can do that is by understanding what things can potentially trigger unethical behavior.

A couple of years ago, Arianna Huffington talked about the importance of sleep during the SHRM Annual Conference. If you missed her keynote, check out her TED Talk on the subject. If lack of sleep contributes to unethical behavior, it only seems logical that getting good sleep helps us to be better. I’m curious. How do you make sure that you sleep well?

Originally published on HR Bartender blog.




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