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Whinging About Work Can Be Good For You, Research Says

Never let anyone tell you that your "negative vibe" is getting the office down ever again.

by VICE Staff
02 May 2018, 4:57am

"Despairing office worker." Image via Shutterstock

Do your colleagues ever tire of your constant complaining about work? Is your "negative vibe" around the office getting people down?

Well, too bad for them. Science has shown that griping is actually good for office morale. New research from the University of Melbourne backs the idea that whinging to colleagues not only lets staff work through their problems, it also helps them bond.

The research comes from Dr Vanessa Pouthier, who embedded with a group of doctors and nurses a hospital oncology department in America's midwest. She attended 50 morning staff meetings, conducted two rounds of interviews with hospital staff, and found griping at work can be just as important for coping as joking around with colleagues.

According to Pouthier, whinging isn't just about having a good vent. The important thing is for colleagues to empathise with you. These back-and-forths are referred to by Pouthier as rituals or "little ceremonies."

“One of the best things in the team I observed, was that these griping rituals helped doctors and nurses realise they were feeling the same way about situations, and they weren’t that different," Dr Pouthier told Pursuit. "It allows people to recognise how similar they are in the challenges they’re facing every day and how they feel about them."

But (there's always a but...) Dr Pouthier says there are important rules to keep productive griping from quickly devolving into full-on workplace bullying.

“You can only gripe about people that are not in the room, and you need to externalise the gripe," she explained. "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."

university of melbourne