“Venting is healthy,” some people preach. It’s good to blow off steam, get things off your chest, right? Not so fast. Research shows that dissipating anger by venting doesn’t make us feel better. Here is why you shouldn’t vent…
A 2015 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 understand better how venting impacted engagement and productivity in the workplace, 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 they rated their day. They 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,” reports the British Psychological Society Research Digest in a recent blog post about the results of this study.
According to a 2002 study on venting and written about 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,” says Quartz.
Simply put, venting is bad for you.
Why doesn’t venting work?
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,” Margot Bastin, who studies young adolescent behavior at the University of Leuven in Belgium, tells Quartz. Co-rumination perpetuates negativity, making it harder to move past a negative situation.
Venting focuses on what’s going wrong rather than problem-solving, limiting the chance that the conversation will lead to a positive outcome.
When you vent, you do 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?
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.
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 cannot influence an outcome. This is usually untrue. Your best bet is to discuss a workplace issue calmly, seeking to understand, offering solutions, and asking for help.
Be a good sport
According to the European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology published a study on venting, the researchers found that sportsmanship reduced negativity and increased engagement in the workplace. Sportsmanship involves tolerating the imperfections, inconveniences, and annoyances that working within a company brings. No organization is perfect and there will always be problems to solve. Rather than getting yourself (and others) worked into a tizzy, ask yourself if this is worth being upset about. If the answer is yes, then co-reflect and speak up. But if it’s petty stuff that purpurates workplace drama, stop complaining and let it go. It’s better for your health, mood, and relationships.
If all else fails, go to the gym. There’s nothing like a good workout to blow off steam.
Like this? Check out my blog on letting go when you feel you’ve been wronged.