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While complaining about work can be cathartic, it could also end up hurting you in the long run according to new research.
In a study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, Michigan State University researchers found that workers who regularly point out workplace problems and errors are more likely to become mentally fatigued, defensive and less productive.
After analyzing how more than 300 full-time workers voiced their office criticisms, and then measuring their level of mental energy while at work, the researchers found that negative-minded employees often experience mental drain because they deplete much of their energy policing workplace shortcomings, which often also causes tension in their relationships with coworkers.
Management professor Russell Johnson, the study’s lead researcher, told MSU Today:
“The irony of that is, when people are mentally fatigued they’re less likely to point out problems anymore.
“In addition, their own work performance suffers, they’re less likely to be cooperative and helpful, and they even exhibit deviant behaviors such as being verbally abusive and stealing from the employer.”
Those who level constructive criticism and suggest ways to improve are less likely to feel drained and are more beneficial to their companies, the study says.
“The moral of this story is not that we want people to stop raising concerns within the company, because that can be extremely beneficial,” Johnson told MSU Today. “But constantly focusing on the negative can have a detrimental effect on the individual.”
Johnson and his team suggests that workers spin their office criticisms more positively, and also that companies reward those workers whose problem-pointing leads to improvements: “In that case, maybe other employees would be more accepting of someone pointing out errors if they know this is what the company wants them to do – that the person isn’t acting outside the norm.”