Fog

Ready for coffee?

Published: Tuesday, April 15, 2014 11:18 a.m. CDT

You know what I hate?

I hate when know-it-all scientists with their starched white lab coats and their so-called statistics decide that one of my most strongly held core prejudices is really a lot of baloney.

Like this whole evolution business. What piece of scientific “proof” could possibly convince you that humans descended from monkeys when, in your heart, you know that the human race began in 2011 when space travelers arrived on Earth to create a wacky world of bumbling beings to amuse the folks back home, watching on their flat screens from their living rooms on Romulac-7.

Or maybe I’m thinking of “Duck Dynasty.” Anyway, you get my point.

Fortunately, there are those rare times when science comes up with “evidence” that supports our personal delusions. And this is exactly the case with a recent email I received from Allison Adams.

Adams is the director of global media strategy at the University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School. She emailed me to share the results of a new research project by professors at three major American universities — research that resulted in a major workplace breakthrough.

To quote the email’s subject line, “A cup of coffee can help you act ethically at work.”

“Go ahead and have that extra cup of java,” Adams writes, “it might just help you to act ethically at work.”

Putting aside for a moment the questions of whether this research was funded by Folgers Coffee and why in the world anyone would want to act ethically at work, the email goes on to report that “a large cup of coffee can help sleep-deprived employees bolster their ability to control their behavior and resist unethical temptations.”

(My copy of the Journal of Applied Psychology has not arrived yet, but I think we can assume that while caffeine may indeed keep you from pilfering office supplies or emptying the petty cash drawer, it would take a fairly large cup of coffee to get you to resist the unethical temptation to hide under your desk and take an after-lunch nap.)

According to Professor Michael Christian, “sleep deprivation contributes to unethical behavior by making you more susceptible to social influences, such as the boss who tells you to do something deceptive or unethical.”

I’m not saying this is wrong, but it does strike me as rather wrongheaded. In other words, instead of working on ways to control or contain the illegal and immoral influences of evil management, the scientists conclude that the answer is for employees to dose themselves with stimulants.

Wouldn’t it be more efficient to make managers ingest vast quantities of downers or simply drink themselves silly with cups of Jim Beam so they are completely incapacitated and therefore unable to give deceptive or unethical orders? I guess that’s the subject of another study.

Despite my quibbles with the research results, I must admit that the big geniuses in the research lab have come up with some conclusions that fully receive my support.

Companies are encouraged to “provide caffeine in the workplace.” Now, that sounds too good to be true. Could there be in American industry a management team so forward-thinking that it would set aside certain rooms in an office where one can get stale, bitter coffee at the push of a button?

Why, such a room might even contain a refrigerator to preserve the lunches workers bring from home until they turn toxic. And it could have tables. And chairs.

What would we call such a room? Beats me.

“Reduce long hours with scheduling, overtime restrictions and frequent breaks” is another suggestion, but I’m not sure I am in agreement. Reducing or restricting long hours would reduce our opportunities for pretending to work while playing long games of World of Warcraft. Frequent breaks are OK, but do remember to be considerate to your fellow workers who may be sleeping.

Or is that — should be sleeping?

“Provide workplace napping and sleep awareness training” is one of the last and best conclusions of the scientific consortium behind this research, and it is a breakthrough I know you endorse.

With all the hullabaloo about employers providing health care, how could our nation completely ignore the importance of employers providing nap rooms. Imagine a working world in which every employee is issued a phone, a computer and a fuzzy-wuzzy blanky-wanky to help facilitate their daily dozes.

With a workplace like that, you’d never act unethically. How could you? Even with 10 cups of coffee, you’d be too busy sleeping.

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