The study, entitled A Self-Regulatory Perspective of Work-to-Home Undermining Spillover/Crossover: Examining the Roles of Sleep and Exercise, found that employees who are undermined at work engage in similar behavior at home.
“One of the most problematic consequences of workplace mistreatment is that it can ‘spill’ over to the home domain and ‘cross’ over to affect the wellbeing of other household members,” said the researchers.
“In such scenarios, employees mistreated at work display negative emotional reactions and behaviours toward members of their household… In such scenarios, employees mistreated at work display negative emotional reactions and behaviours toward members of their household,” they added.
The report, which was a joint study between the University of Central Florida and University of Wisconsin-Madison, described a phenomenon of ‘displaced aggression’ whereby employees who are mistreated at work feel unable to respond in the office and therefore “vent their frustrations toward less powerful individuals” such as members of their household.
Sleep was identified as a critical factor in impairing self-regulation. The researchers told Science Daily
that there is a strong link between tiredness and the ability of a person to regular their behaviour.
“Guided by research that suggests poor sleep quality may facilitate self-regulatory impairment and physical exercise might mitigate it, we expect these physiological factors may help explain the spread of undermining behaviour across domains,” the researchers explained.
After tracking the sleep patterns and daytime physical activity of more than 100 MBA students with fulltime jobs, the researchers found that employees who took more than 10,000 steps a day and burned an extra 587 calories “were less likely to perpetuate abuse at home”. This is equivalent to an hour of swimming or a brisk 90-minute walk, they said.
The answer could be as simple as encouraging employees to exercise. The authors of the report suggested that HR departments promote programs that encourage physical activity, such as ‘treadmill desks’, fitness trackers and wellness programs.
“Given that aggressive climates can contribute to employees’ experiences of personal mistreatment, organisations would also do well to create work climates in which mistreatment is less likely,” they added.
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