People Management: Coaching session

Q: One of my junior staff is often sleepy. He has an active social life and it seems to interfere with his work. What should I do?

A: Lucky him. Why shouldn't he have an active social life?

Is your problem that you are jealous of his active social life because you are getting older, or is it because he isn't delivering? Presumably you have discussed this with him.

Are you making assumptions about an active social life? For example, you might not know about a problem he has that causes him to lose sleep, or a partner that works shift patterns.

Of course, if we were in Spain, the problem might be solved by an afternoon siesta. That said, perhaps you would baulk at the idea of providing space for your staff to go off and have a nap.

This reminds me of a report I read last year by Charles Leadbetter. Published by Demos, it is entitled Dream On: Sleep in the 24/7 Society.

Leadbetter argues that too many managers are performing badly and abusive to their staff because of a culture of long working hours, which has eroded sleeping time. He pointed out that many employees with young children are particularly stressed out. The report suggested that 40 per cent of the general public said they did not get enough sleep. "Sleep is one of the missing ingredients in the growing debate about the work/ life balance," said Leadbetter, although he did also confess to writing the report partly because he finds it difficult to get up in the morning. I suspect there will be many who sympathise with him.

Perhaps what this lad needs is an adjustment to his working hours. Are you one of those Anglo-Saxon employers who expects everyone to be in at 9am? A little more flexibility might be helpful for him.

While wanting to ensure effective cover for your clients and stakeholders, flexibility over hours can be a big bonus for staff - although it's clear that you can't have special rules for him and not others.

So have a chat and ask him if he realises people notice he looks sleepy.

And you might want to consider installing one of those excellent Italian espresso machines.

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