The simple idea that can change your work life for good

There's a study making the rounds in organizational management circles this week. It's called "The buffering role of sportsmanship on the effects of daily negative events."

Bear with me. This is really interesting!

Researchers from the United States and Europe collaborated to discover that avoiding unnecessary complaints and criticism at work enhances your engagement and productivity on the job. 

Like so much good social science, the results are pretty intuitive and unsurprising. But it's nice to see the proof. And if you need to be reminded of something your mom may have told you all along... 

Complaining at work only hurts you. 

Here's the life-changing idea. 

“Discussing events immediately during or after they occur forces the brain to re-live or rehearse the negative emotional response. This creates a stronger association in memory, exaggerating the influence of the emotional episode.... When we engage in sportsmanship, we avoid complaining, and in this way block the formation of salient memory links between the event and our feelings.” 
— Evangelia Demerouti & Russell Cropanzano

This is a life lesson I've learned personally, more than once. 

When a work situation is bad, discussing it with coworkers only makes it worse. 

It's counterintuitive! We're taught to believe that talking about a problem makes it better. 

But in practice, once you open up to your coworkers about how and why a certain situation is bad, the floodgates of negativity are opened up, and those floodgates are really hard to close.

This is not to say that all bad situations should be tolerated in silence. Bullying, harassment, and unethical behavior of all stripes needs to be addressed, as high up the chain as possible. 

But complaining about other conditions to coworkers and even bosses usually doesn't accomplish much. Have you also found this to be true?