Between unrecognised overtime and the office fridge raider, the workplace has a funny way of bringing out the closet-complainer in all of us.
But now there’s no reason to get the post-gripe guilts. Coz, according to new research it’s actually really good for you.
University of Melbourne researcher Dr Vanessa Pouthier studied a team of nurses and health professionals at a hospital in the US over a period of 12 months.
Her findings? When used in a certain way, both joking and whinging can help build inter-staff relationships and even improve your mood.
“Generally, people don’t think there’s any value to it or they think it has no place in the workplace,” she told ABC Radio Perth.
“It helps people to process stress and frustration and you notice palpable changes when team members engaged in both activities.”
In fact, Dr Pouthier found this area so under-researched, she looked into other fields (like linguistics) to better understand how this works. She realised that venting actually acts as a bonding activity that not only helps employees to sift through any feelings of negativity, but also energises them too.
“It allows people to recognise how similar they are in the challenges they’re facing every day and how they feel about them,” she explained. “One of the best things in the team I observed, was that these griping rituals helped doctors and nurses realised they were feeling the same way about situations and they weren’t that different.”
“By engaging in those little rituals in their care planning meetings they processed some of that negative energy and left feeling more energised.”
That said, it can quickly turn toxic unless you abide by a few simple rules:
“You can only gripe about people that are not in the room and you need to externalise the gripe. So, the gripe’s target needs to be something everyone can agree on, like the structure in which the team is working, or difficult practitioners working in other services. Never individuals in the team.”
On the other hand, Dr Pouthier says joking can help “turn a problematic situation into a source of humour.”
“Coming together to joke about problems can help teams work through them and generate positive emotions in the process. This is important not only for bonding, but also from a cognitive perspective, positive emotions help keep you more open-minded.”