A study published in the European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology took a closer look at the negative impacts of venting in the workplace. Wanting to better understand how venting impacted engagement and productivity at work, researchers asked 112 employees across multiple industries to log their workdays for three consecutive days, recording moods, complaints and venting episodes. They were also asked to record negative events, rating each event’s severity and whether they exaggerated the seriousness of it or not.
The research team found that the more a person vented, the worse he or she rated his or her day. The team also found that the negative mood carried over into the next day, reducing engagement and productivity. “They not only reported lower momentary mood and less satisfaction and pride with the work they’d been doing that same day, but they also tended to experience lower mood the next morning, measured in a separate diary entry and lower pride in next-day accomplishments,” reported the British Psychological Society Research Digest in a recent blog post about the results of this study.
According to a study on venting written by Quartz, “Friends who spent time extensively discussing negative feelings reported destructive thought patterns and even depression. What’s more, there was a contagion effect – not only did those divulging find themselves leaving discussions worse off, but their partners were also adversely affected.” Simply put, venting is bad for you. But why doesn’t venting work? Here are a few reasons why:
- When people vent, they tend to talk about the problem repeatedly, which is called co-rumination. “Co-rumination can be identified by an excessive focus on problems and negative feelings,” said Margot Bastin, who studies young adolescent behavior at the University of Leuven in Belgium. Bastin also told Quartz that co-rumination perpetuates negativity, making it harder to move past a negative situation.
- Venting typically focuses on what’s going wrong rather than on problem-solving and therefore limits the chances of the conversation leading to a positive outcome.
- When you vent, you not only make yourself miserable; you make others miserable, too. Negativity has a powerful effect on others.
- Venting perpetuates office drama by spreading rumors and gossip, increasing suspicion, decreasing trust and halting productivity. It destroys good culture, which leads to more opportunities to vent; it creates a self-fulfilling prophecy.
That being said, there are valid workplace issues that cause frustration, anger and mistrust; these feelings should not be bottled up or swept under the rug. So, what do you do? Here are a few ways to avoid venting:
- Instead of venting, co-reflect. Co-reflection describes a situation where individuals come together to discuss the problem at hand with a clear goal of creating a deeper understanding of what happened in a situation and constructing possible solutions that could lead to a positive outcome.
- Speak up. The best way to ease frustration and make things better is to bring up workplace issues to your manager or company leader. All too often, our story is that we are a victim of circumstance and have no ability to influence an outcome. This is usually untrue. Your best bet is to discuss a workplace issue in a calm manner, seeking to understand, offering solutions and asking for help.
- Be a good sport. Researchers found sportsmanship reduces negativity and increases engagement in the workplace. Sportsmanship involves tolerating the imperfections, inconveniences and annoyances that working within a company brings. Rather than getting yourself and others worked into a tizzy, ask yourself if this is something that’s really worth being upset about. If the answer is “yes,” then co-reflect and speak up. But if it’s petty stuff that perpetuates workplace drama, stop complaining and let it go. It’s better for your health, mood and relationships.
For more information, contact Kerry Siggins read her blog, visit www.kerrysiggins.com/blog.