How Fatigue Ruins Relationships


When there is conflict in the workplace, is fatigue the cause?

As members of a choir that did two and three week concert tours we were often fatigued. But in spite of the fatigue, we could perform effectively because 1. we were very well rehearsed and 2. we did not need to deal with the minutia of travel that such a tour entails.

We were solely focused on being on stage and singing our part and, as a result, we could deliver excellent performances even when we were fatigued.

This is not to say that fatigue did not have an impact especially when things did not go as planned. Unforeseen and stressful circumstances could result in one or more choir members experiencing a 'melt-down' that resulted in someone crying or saying or doing something that, on sober second thought, might have been reconsidered.

Tired employees can be present and mindlessly able to perform. However, when faced with unexpected problems or work stresses, they do not have the emotional or physical energy to devote to the situation and they have an emotional melt-down or say or do something that is not only appropriate but which may also be harmful to their relationship with their colleagues.

Relationships affected by small, infrequent episodes can usually be corrected with an apology and an explanation of "I was tired / stressed and not thinking about what I said and / or did."

However, those who are chronically stressed, sleep deprived and fatigued, may be prone to on-going and more significant 'melt-downs.' This creates a perception in the minds of colleges and they learn to have based on that perception. They may start to 'pussyfoot' around this colleague so as not to cause a melt-down. They may not bring problems to the attention of this person (if a manager or supervisor). Problems are then unaddressed and critical situations get out of hand. There may also be more employee turnover because they do not want to work with the college in question.
• When employees are experiencing conflict in the workplace consider what role fatigue may be playing in the conflict.
• Address working conditions that may be causing high levels of stress, sleep deprivation and fatigue.
• Educate employees on the importance of sleep and how sleep deprivation and fatigue can contribute to presentism and conflict in relationships.
• Give employees the tools to manage stress and fatigue at work.
• Help employees learn effective communication and conflict management skills.

Carolyn Schur