19 May 2011

Not getting enough sleep reduces our capacity for “innovative thinking, risk analysis, and strategic planning” and may increase our susceptibility to deviant and unethical behaviour. This is a finding from research soon to be published. Accidents caused by sleep deprivation are reported to cost the United States economy about US$150 billion each year. But the impact of staying up all night working to meet deadlines, and long hours on business related travel may also promote poor judgement, rudeness and greater deviance!

Can the recent rash of misconduct involving prominent people be a consequence of inadequate sleep? Will IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn, remanded in custody this week on a sexual assault charge, have a defence of sleeplessness from coping with the Greek financial crisis? May be the list of leaders from many parts of the world in the media for misdeeds, can justify their misfeasance on the demands of their jobs and the effects of nature.

State servants have an obligation at all times to avoid activities which may harm the reputation of their agency or the State Services. Although what we do in our private lives is not usually of concern to our employer, misconduct is likely to breach the obligation to be responsible and trustworthy. The guidance in Understanding the Code of Conduct explains that …“we must avoid being connected publicly with behaviour that is likely to bring our organisation into disrepute or diminishes the reputation of the State Services”. The prison officer who pleaded guilty this week to growing cannabis would not appear to have had that obligation upper most in his mind.