I Had a Dream That I Slept Well Last Night

Kenneth Nowack, Ph.D.


I woke up tired this morning and know exactly why…I didn’t get both enough sleep and good quality sleep last night. Good thing I’m not making executive decisions, flying the space shuttle or doing delicate brain surgery not to mention being the third link in the security at one of our nuclear power plants.

Well, maybe you won’t be surprised that in a recent study of US Workers, the prevalence of fatigue (lack of sleep being one of the major contributors) was 37.9%. Fatigue, when present, is associated with a threefold increase, on average, in the proportation of workers with condition-specific lost productive time (Ricci, J., Chee, Lorandeau, A. & Berger, J. (2007). Fatigue in the U.S. Workforce: Prevalence and Implications for Lost Productive Work Time. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. 49 (1), 1-10). A Sleep in America Poll released by the National Sleep Foundation in 2008 reported that 65 percent of Americans have trouble falling asleep, wake during the night or wake feeling unrefreshed at least a few times each week.

In fact the top three causes of lost work time by employees in the US based on research from Ron Kessler at the Harvard Medical School (due to both absence and presenteeism) include: Sleep disorders, depression and fatigue (these three each account for approximately 425-490 lost workdays per 100 full time employees).

Even the prestigious Harvard Business Review (October 2006) conducted an interview with sleep expert Dr. Charles Czeisler on the relationship between lack of sleep, poor performance and impaired decision making and judgment.

My colleague, friend and personal sleep expert Dr. Mark Rosekind founder of Alertness Solutions has found that even two hours less sleep than you need at night (that certainly can vary!) has the following results:

  1. 1. Degrading critical judgment and decision making by 50%
  2. 2. Diminishing memory by 20%
  3. 3. Interfering with communication skills by 30%
  4. 4. Affecting mood by 100% (good mood goes down and bad mood goes up)

Well, any new parent can attest to these findings….Well, if we look at some provocative new research maybe lack of sleep does indeed have an upside. According to data from the Cancer Prevention Study II, individuals who average seven hours of sleep each night have a lower mortality rate than do those who sleep eight hours or more (Kripke DF, Garfinkel L, Wingard DL, et al. Mortality associated with sleep duration and insomnia. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2002;59:131-136).

These findings were also consistent with earlier research suggesting that the lowest mortality was again at seven hours of total sleep, with some increase in mortality associated with short sleep and an even steeper increase with long sleep.  Good news indeed given that the average American on weekdays sleeps about six and one-half hours.

Stanford’s Dr. Clete Kushida, president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, who has worked in the field of sleep research since 1977, offers these tips to a better night’s sleep:

  • Maintain a regular schedule, getting to bed and rising at the same time as consistently as possible each day, selecting the number of hours of sleep that make you feel best, whether it’s seven hours or 10.
  • Use bright light within five minutes of waking, for 30 minutes, to synchronize your internal clock.
  • Avoid bright light two to three hours before bedtime, which delays sleep onset. If you read, get just enough light to read and avoid halogen.
  • Avoid remaining in bed if you can’t sleep. After 20 minutes, if you can’t sleep or fall back asleep, go into another room and do something else until you feel drowsy.
  • Avoid reading or watching TV in bed (especially thriller novels or action shows) unless it makes you drowsy.
  • Avoid napping, unless you nap every day at the same time for the same amount of time or you are tired and about to get behind the wheel of a car.

All obvious you say? Don’t blame me then when you wind up dreaming about this blog tonight.
zzzzzzzzzzzend….Be well….

[tags]insomnia, sleep, fatigue, depression, sleep disorders, fatigue countermeasures, REM, NREM, circadian rhythms, stress, dreams, dreaming, health, job burnout, kenneth nowack, ken nowack, nowack[/tags]


The ROI of Interpersonal Competence

Kenneth Nowack, Ph.D.


Do nice people finish first or is it last?

Some recent research suggests that developing social skills and having accurate appraisal of our strengths and development areas might really pay off–really in dollars and cents.

Ten years after graduation, high-school students who had been rated as conscientious, collaborative and cooperative by their teachers were earning significantly more then classmates who had similar test scores but fewer social skills ($3,200 more yearly on average), according to Christy Lleras assistant professor of human and community development at the University of Illinois study ((Lleras, C. (2008). Do skills and behaviors in high school matter? The contribution of noncognitive factors in explaining differences in educational attainment and earnings. Social Science Research, 37, 888-902)).

The study analyzed data from the National Educational Longitudinal Study, which followed a diverse group of 11,000 tenth graders for 10 year. The study tracked not only scores on standard achievement tests but teacher ratings on such qualities as the students’ work habits, their ability to relate well to peers (social skills), and their participation in extracurricular activities which indicates the ability to interact well with both students and adults.

We have some compelling new research that these people might actually have a very unrealistic picture of their interpersonal competence. In fact, they tend to have the “no clue gene” with exaggerated distortions about their interpersonal prowess.

We recently analyzed over 2,000 leaders who have taken our Emotional Intelligence View 360 (EIV360) that was designed to measure self-management, relationship management and communication skills. By comparing self to other ratings we can characterize leaders has being either accurate or inaccurate in seeing how others experience their interpersonal style and behavior. In fact, we describe three styles: 1) Overestimators (they rate themselves higher than others); 2) Underestimators (they rate them selves lower than others) and 3) Accurate Assessors (either seeing themselves as largely competent or not but at least aligned with how others experience them).

In our analysis we found that 41.7% would be characterized as “over estimators” with 12% with extremely elevated views of themselves relative to how others rate them (maybe they are right but the differences are approximately one standard deviation above the average self-other difference).

We tested (using a statistical test called Analysis of Variance) whether the direct reports who live day and night with their bosses would rate their overall emotional intelligence higher if they had a more accurate view of their strengths and development areas. So, we split the leaders into two groups based on the average self-manager differences: 1) Those who were “Overestimators” and 2) Those who were “Underestimators” and compared the ratings of EI by direct reports.

As expected, direct reports who worked for leaders who had self-enhanced views of their social skills rated them significantly lower (p = .03) compared to those who were more humble and realistic in their self-ratings. It would appear that the most emotionally intelligent leaders truly have a more realistic and accurate self-awareness and insight about their interpersonal competence.

It seems like people with social skills might actually have better capacity to navigate the interpersonal world…Maybe being nice really does pay off in the long run….Be well…

[tags]surveys, Envisia, Envisia learing, retention, talent management, engagement surveys, job satisfaction, worklife balance, job stress, emotional intelligence, competent jerks, stress, job burnout, leadership, heart disease, talent management, engagement, productivity, bad bosses, kenneth nowack, ken nowack, nowack[/tags]


Work May Make You Crazy

Kenneth Nowack, Ph.D.


News alert (in case you might have not known already) — Work-related stress can be a direct cause of clinical depression and anxiety among employees.

A recent finding in Psychological Medicine finding comes from the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study, which has followed a group of 1000 children born in 1972-73 in Dunedin, New Zealand throughout their lives. The study subjects have been assessed at the ages of 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 18, 26, and most recently at the age of 32, in 2004-05.

The study included 406 women and 485 men. All were asked at age 32 about their perceptions of work stress. In general, men reported higher psychological job demands, lower social support, and higher physical job demands than women.

High psychological job demands, such as long hours, heavy workload, or poor relations with one’s boss, were found to be associated with clinical depression, anxiety, or both in both women and men.

It was found that women who reported high psychological job demands (using a standard approach to measuring work load and decisional control over things on the job), such as working long hours, working under pressure or without clear direction, were 75 per cent more likely to suffer from clinical depression or general anxiety disorder than women who reported the lowest level of psychological job demands.

Men with high psychological job demands were 80 per cent more likely to suffer from depression or anxiety disorders than men with lower demands. Men with low levels of social support at work were also found to be at increased risk of depression, anxiety or both.

This study shows that high levels of workplace stress may be an important contributor to common mental disorders, such as depression and anxiety. These disorders certainly contribute directly to employer costs for medical claims, absenteeis, presenteeism and disability.

It’s seems so easy to just begin to suggest individually based remedies to help employees cope more effectively with stress on the job. However, a recent review of stress management interventions suggests that inidivudally based approaches, without targeting the organization, are unlikely to have sustain impact over time (Nowack, K. (2000). Occupational stress management: Effective or not?. In P. Schnall, K. Belkie, P. Landensbergis, & D. Baker (Eds.), Occupational Medicine: State of the Art Reviews, Hanley and Belfus, Inc., Philadelphia, PA., Vol 15, No. 1, pp. 231-233).

Looking for a place to start?

In his book Primal Leadership, Dan Goleman states “Roughly 50 to 70 percent of how employees perceive their organizational climate can be traced to the actions of one person: the leader. More than anyone else, the boss, creates the conditions that determine people’s ability to work well.”

If that doesn’t work, there is always the Serenity Prayer….Be well….


[tags] stress, burnout, job demands, anxiety, depression, workload, pressure, ken nowack, envisia, kenneth nowack [/tags]


Do the Behaviors of Leaders “Rub Off” on the Emotions of Employees?

Kenneth M. Nowack, Ph.D.


Despite a lot of press about how bad moods at work can be attributed to leader’s behavior, there is little research to support this urban myth–until now.

We all know that leaders make a significant difference in talent enagement, retention and level of stress (Nowack, K. (2005). Leadership, Emotional Intelligence and Employee Engagement: Creating a Psychologically Healthy Workplace. Unpublished manuscript) but what are the effects of leaders on emotions at work?

Leaders always have a power differential that might influence the relationship they have with their talent. leaders have the ability to limit autonomy and decisional control that affects levels of stress in all employees. They also provide evaluations of performance that truly affect pay, promotions and careers.

A recent study revealed ((Miner, A., Glomb, T. & Hulin, C. (2005). Experience sampling mood and its correlates at work. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 78-171-193)) that employees report that, on average, 20% of their interations with their managers are “negative.” However, the effects of negative interactions with one’s manager on employee mood is 5 times the effects of positive interactions. So even if 80% of the interactions are pretty positive, it’s the negative ones that have a potent and lasting impact on perceived stress on talent at all levels.

In a very recent longitudinal study from health care workers followed 4 times a day for 2 weeks, employees with managers high on a measure of “transformational leadership orientation” experienced significantly more positive emotions throughout the day. More importantly, these positive emotions also had a “spill over” affect on customers and peers within their work group (Bono, J., Foldes, H., Vinson, G., & Muros, J. (2007). Workplace emotions: The role of supervision and leadership. Journal of Applied Psychology, 92, 1357-1367).

Leaders who have a “transformational” rather than transactional orientation to their approach to supervision and management focus less on short-term goals and more about the needs of talent translating into enhanced engagement and connection to the vision of the organization. In three unpublished studies utilizing our own measures of emotional intelligence, leaders who are charcterized as being higher on EI also are signifcantly higher on all scales of several well known measures of transformational leadership (e.g., MLQ; Avolio & Bass).

Taken together, these studies really demonstrate just how powerful leaders have on the emotions of employees. The positive emotions generated by emotionally intelligent leaders with a transformational orientation apparently have the potential to affect both engagement of talent and their behavior with internal/external customers.
As Daniel Goleman reminds us, “the emotional brain responds more quickly than the thinking brain.” I guess that’s why leaders play such an important role in employee’s emotional experiences at work.

It looks like the emotional intelligence of leaders is in fact pretty important and their impact on employee morale goes far beyond just the emotional “contagion” process….Be well……

[tags]surveys, Envisia, Envisia Learning, emotions, leadership, transformational leadership, positive supervisory interactions, morale, climate, kenneth nowack, ken nowack, nowack[/tags]