Sleeping on the Job: Is it more than just an unintentional nod-off?

by epi on October 23, 2012

Q: There’s an elderly man in our office with 50-plus years of service.  It’s widely accepted by the staff and management that it’s “OK” for him to sleep on the job, which he does with the door wide open.  I believe it is never OK to sleep at work and that if you can’t keep awake you should stay home or retire.  How should this be handled?

A: Recently I was reading over the index for my next book (not the most stimulating work) when I suddenly felt my head jerk up.  I had nodded off without realizing it.  In fact, most of us have experienced the unintentional nod during some boring task.  Aside form the occasional nod-off, however, sleeping on the job is basically unacceptable.  You’re really not being paid to put your head on your arms and catch a quick 40winks, and if your sleeping is tolerated by management, it can become a cause of friction: “Why does he get to sleep on the job while I don’t?”  Unless your company has a specific policy allowing naps (some companies, realizing the value of a quick nap to productivity, have installed “nap rooms”) then the etiquette is clear — catch your zzzz’s at home.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Jerry October 23, 2012 at 12:51 pm

Everything EPI said is correct; however EPI did not answer the question of what should be done. Realpolitik says that the OP should do nothing. Management has already decided to give sleeping beauty a free pass. Does the OP really want to engage in a battle with her boss (burnimg bridges) over an issue that really doesn’t affect her? If she thinks she is being treated unfairly, shld look for new employment rather than tell her boss how to manage.


scdeb October 24, 2012 at 12:17 am

Jerry, I agree. This is no one’s business but the gentleman in question and his boss. Ignoring it would be my suggestion & that would include not talking about it with others as well. No one knows what this man is going through but his superiors. For instance he could be undergoing chemo or may do other tasks that are considered over time that compensate for his time spent napping. After 50+ yrs of service a few naps shouldn’t matter to anyone–he has to be doing something right to be employed for all those years.


Joanna October 24, 2012 at 3:17 pm

I, too, immediately wondered if perhaps there were some kind of medical issues that HR is aware of, but of course the colleagues aren’t. Perhaps HR is, like many other people nowadays, hesitant to reprimand him for fear of stepping into legal issues regarding his medical condition, an ageism lawsuit, what have you.

That said, I don’t agree that “after 50+ years of service a few naps shouldn’t matter to anyone.” You do NOT earn the right to slack off simply because you’ve been around a certain number of years; you’re still earning a paycheck and you should fully deserve it. Furthermore, we don’t know any other details. For example, is this an office where clients or vendors come in? It hardly makes your workplace look reliable when someone’s sleeping on the desk. Also, what happens when this man is sleeping? Is there a ringing phone that must be answered by someone else, paperwork that is delayed or passed off entirely to another, etc? If so, this absolutely needs to be addressed.


Ruth Peltier October 25, 2012 at 12:51 am

It is obvious to me that Management has knowledge of the gentleman’s situation that the OP does not have. Either there is a medical condition involved (Narcolepsy comes to my mind since I have that condition) or the gentleman has knowledge or expertise in an area that other employees are not able to replace. Either way it is none of the OP’s business. I suggest that the OP quietly get up and shut the door when the gentleman is asleep.


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