Constant Complaints About Work Stress Can Be Detrimental,Study Shows

In Education

The habit of constantly complaining about being overworked, often seen as a badge of honor, can actually be detrimental. Research from the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business reveals that such “stress bragging” makes individuals appear less competent and less likable to their colleagues.

The study in Personnel Psychology surveyed numerous employees and found that those who boast about their stress not only create a negative impression but are also less likely to receive help when genuinely overwhelmed. Additionally, stress bragging can spread, increasing stress and burnout among colleagues. By presenting extreme busyness as standard, it sets unrealistic and unsustainable expectations for everyone.

Constantly complaining about work stress negatively impacts morale

When employees frequently express how busy and overwhelmed they feel, it can affect the entire office, leading to a shared sense of stress. While occasional venting is natural, consistently complaining can be harmful. Instead, it’s advisable to manage stress through healthier methods. Managers should be aware of persistent stress complaints among team members, as these can negatively influence the workplace environment.

Scientists reached their conclusion through a two-part study. First, 360 participants at the University of Georgia read fictional scenarios where a co-worker either bragged about stress, mentioned being stressed, or didn’t mention stress. They then rated these fictional co-workers on likability, competence, and willingness to help.

To confirm these findings, the researchers also surveyed 218 real employees about their experiences with stress-bragging co-workers. This helped analyze the impact of frequent stress-bragging on the employees’ stress levels and burnout over time.

Boasting about stress has negative effects

By integrating hypothetical scenarios with real-world data, scientists distinguished between the positive effects of perceived competence due to stress and the negative effects of overtly boasting about stress. Their research highlights the significant adverse impact that one individual’s chronic stress broadcasting can have on the entire workplace environment.

Jessica Rodell, a professor of management at UGA’s Terry College of Business, comments on a common behavior many people exhibit. She speculates that individuals might share their stress to demonstrate their competence but this often has the opposite effect, potentially harming the individuals trying to impress their colleagues.

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