10 Career Risks of the Sleep-Deprived. You?

Sleep is for wimps. Do some people make you feel that way? Time to refute!                           

We’ve become a tired workforce, exhausted even. We work long hours, stay up late for household chores/family time and/or to socialize with friends. When we lay down to sleep, we often can’t or the quality is poor. 

Sleep matters. 

Sometimes we treat sleep like it’s an accessory, not a necessity, to our success.

 Ben Stein, commentator on economic, political, and social issues, recently (3/20/11) did a segment about sleep on the CBS Sunday Morning program. He quoted Dr. Frank Knight, economist from the University of Chicago during the 1930s, 40s, and 50s who said: 

“Never waste any time you can spend sleeping.”

Stein talks about all the time we spend focusing on eating well and exercising, but then don’t commit to sleep, something that rejuvenates us with literally no effort. Not sleeping, Stein says, “cheats our bodies and our minds.” When Stein thinks “sleep,” he starts with 10 hours a night not eight or six! 

Sleep-deprivation has its costs. 

The first smart move of business fitness is to stay well. Sleep ensures that we have the mental sharpness we need in our jobs. It also makes us less susceptible to getting sick. 

Sleep deprivation can affect our personalities, coping skills, and ability to handle stress. Over time, it can change us, so we don’t remember our well-rested selves! 

We put a lot at risk when we run our careers on fumes. We may think we’re moving along just fine, but the people around us can see we aren’t operating on all or, even the right, cylinders. 

A successful career needs a base of positivism and consistency. Sleep deprivation starts to chip away at that. Here’s what can happen: 

  1. Declining or inconsistent performance/productivity—Work quality and quantity starts to slip, a little at a time over time, especially on routine work. We start to save our mental alertness for the high visibility stuff, while our bread and butter work gets neglected.  
  2. Pessimism about the job—Our attitudes become gloomy as our mental energy wanes. Others watch and start to doubt our commitment to the company and/or team. 
  3. Little or no joy in accomplishment—We do a great job but even the praise doesn’t boost our energy. Instead we brace ourselves for the demands ahead, knowing that we’ll need to dig deep again. 
  4. Annoyance with coworkers/the boss—Direction by the boss and actions by coworkers are viewed as just making our job harder.  
  5. Being short-tempered, argumentative, and impatient—We have a hard time holding our tongue, even over trivial matters. Our fuse becomes short. People are put off. 
  6. Inattentiveness and detail errors—We often make glaring mistakes that we’d never made before. We forget, overlook, and/or dismiss the details that are the hallmarks of quality work which don’t seem that important anymore.   
  7. Doing unhealthy or inappropriate things to keep awake/alert—We start to make bad choices like too much caffeine, medication, and even illegal drugs. We may sleep on the job when our body just takes over. 
  8. Feeling stressed out and edgy—We get jumpy, over-reacting to or with-drawing from demanding work, because we don’t feel in tune enough to cope. 
  9. Fearful about the unknown and distrustful of colleagues—Our minds start to play tricks on us about who we can and can’t count on at work. We don’t interpret clearly or correctly the behavior and words of people around us. 
  10. Declining self-confidence or self-esteem—We start to doubt our own capabilities. Conditions start to catch up with us and we’re too exhausted to problem-solve with a clear head. 

The nearly instantaneous remedy! 

Take a nap. Go to bed early for a couple of days. Recommit to a routine bed-time that gives you at least eight hours and stick to it. 

Learn to say “no” to all temptations to compromise your commitment to sleep. 

Your career relies on that choice and so does your life. Zzzzzzzzz! 

Photo from futureshape via Flickr

Gutsy or Wimpy? Your Choice | Purposeful Risk-taking

 “What am I made of?” Ever asked yourself that question? The answer is often elusive. 

We face career tests all the time. Our bosses may assign us to: 

  • Moderate a contentious meeting
  • Host an important customer from out of town
  • Analyze mounds of disjointed data
  • Hire, train, and supervise a group of interns 

When these challenges are outside our jobs, we may need to stretch, navigate uncharted waters, and overcome self-doubt.

 Our results can either help or hurt our prospects for career growth. 

Careers are a crap shoot. 

That means that there are times when you have to roll the dice. If you don’t take chances, you won’t progress. 

Career risk-taking tests our: 

  • Self-confidence
  • Skills and knowledge
  • Relationship with coworkers
  • Decision-making and judgment
  • Tolerance for stress 

When our boss pushes us out of our comfort zone, we want to believe that s/he: 

  • Wouldn’t ask us to do something we couldn’t do
  • Will have our backs
  • Thinks this is the right time for us 

So you’re ready to go, right? 

Truth is: plenty of people wimp out. They make excuses or explain: 

  • why they aren’t ready
  • why no one will accept them in that role
  • how the risks are too high 

Here come our fear of failure, lack of confidence, and nagging insecurities to block us again. Even coworkers with what look like strong egos and plenty of swagger feel their blood run cold when faced with a high-risk career assignment. 

It’s about the stakes.   

There’s no risk if nothing’s on the line. When we know we’re wagering our career future on a big assignment, we pause. Instead of believing that we’ll win, we worry that we’ll lose. 

This is when you must ask yourself, “What’s the worst that could happen if I flub this?” (The real answer is never as dire as the one in your head.) Then ask, “Why do I think I would?” (Get ready to stand there thinking for a while.) 

I was promoted to director of customer service at a time of significant upheaval in the department. I was also a fish out of water, knowing precious little about our customer call center, collections, and dispatching. The company was carrying over $64 million in overdue accounts and facing testy questions from regulators. 

I was in the job for eight weeks when my boss (the senior VP) told me I needed to make a board of director’s presentation on these issues. I was panic-stricken. 

I knew the bare minimum about how the corporate financials were being impacted. Board appearance protocol was completely foreign to me, and the internal political pressure was daunting. I could have begged off but decided to gut it out. 

I was more than weak-kneed as I waited “on-call.” My prepared information was solid. (The executives made sure of that!) It was the Q & A period that worried me. 

I made my best effort, but more than once, corporate execs leaped to my aid without making me look bad. They often anticipated that I would not know the context for board questions and headed off awkward moments. 

I survived this ordeal and so did my career. It wasn’t my best performance, but it was good enough. 

The upside for me was the respect I got from employees and colleagues for having the guts to stand up and be accountable for the business functions on my watch. 

Showing courage carries weight no matter what the outcome.

 Go for it. 

It’s not easy to stick your neck out, but it’s necessary. I’ve lost count of all the stomachaches I’ve had because I was unsure of myself. I still get them, though not as often. 

You just can’t let your doubts stymie you, unless you want to stay where you are forever. 

You get real points for trying. So here are 100 from me to start you off. The rest are up to you!

Photo from debaird at Flickr