Tag Archives: Mood

Complaining is Not Catharsis: Choose Sportsmanship Over Purposeless Venting

Few things bother me more than complaining. I’m not referring to actual complaints, the kind where the individual has a legitimate gripe and would like help finding a solution. No, I’m talking about the pointless complaints where the only intent is to voice discontent. If you are watching Feud: Bette and Joan then you know what I mean.

The mini-series Feud: Bette and Joan follows the real-life story of two legendary actresses, Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, and their legendary quarreling. They constantly complain about each other to studio heads, the director, tabloid columnists, and to their children. While many of their complaints are not without merit, how much did Davis and Crawford accomplish with their relentless critiques? A new study found that complaining may actually make the situation worse.

According to research published in the European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, Demeroutia and Cropanzano found that complaining about negative events cements their impact. It seems that discussing these events immediately during or after they occur forces the brain to re-live the negative emotional response. This reinforces the association between the event and the negative emotions, “turning a bad experience into That Bad Experience.” The incident then becomes more memorable and has a more damaging influence on emotional well-being.

When complaining, Demeroutia and Cropanzano concluded that what may have been intended as a short outburst persists until at least the afternoon of the following day. That is over 24 hours of significantly diminished momentary mood, less satisfaction with work, and lower pride in accomplishments.

It is easy to say that the lesson is to ask people to refrain from talking about bad things, however that is not at all the point. When a problem arises we must work towards resolution, and that begins with verbalizing it. But purposeless complaining is not the solution—a more constructive method is to harness your sportsmanship.

Sportsmanship, otherwise known as organizational citizenship behavior, involves a willingness to tolerate workplace inconveniences, annoyances, and discomforts without complaining. A “good sport” can buffer themself from the harmful effects of daily negative work experiences, thereby blocking the formation of salient negative memories.

Demeroutia and Cropanzano determined that individuals with higher levels of sportsmanship processed negative events with the intent of achieving positive outcomes, not complaining for the sake of complaining. As a result, they recovered faster from setbacks. Being free from harmful distractions, they were then able to experience enhanced productivity, display a greater willingness to help co-workers, improve their efficiency, and generate social capital with stronger networks of peers.

Don’t let pettiness get the best of you or allow it to overrun your culture. We are not victims of our circumstances; we have the latitude to evaluate and process the meaning of events and how we choose to react. You can spend your whole career like Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, but you’ll end up with a bruised ego, few real friends, and a wake of wasted opportunities. They each achieved great things, but a trace of sportsmanship may have resulted in so much more. Learn from them. Make the choice to be a good sport.

Storm on Meteorological Moods

stormLeaders are always on the lookout for ways to enhance their ability to influence others. Typically an exercise in introspection, leaders are smart to consider the one area they can control more than any other—themself. Asking what you can do to increase your degree of trust, credibility, and inspiration is a valid and beneficial exercise. Today, however, let’s focus on the affects of outside impetuses. Beyond the workplace, look out your window for today we are going to discuss the affects of weather on decision making. And who better to guide us than the ultimate rainmaker, Storm.

Storm is a superhero commonly associated with the X-Men. She first appeared in 1975 as the daughter of a tribal princess from Kenya. As she got older, Storm realized that she has the ability to manipulate weather. She can adjust the temperature; regulate all forms of precipitation; produce lightning; and generate such meteorological disturbances as tornadoes, thunderstorms, blizzards, and hurricanes. As you are about to learn, Storm’s powers may make her the ultimate leader.

In his book Drunk Tank Pink: And Other Unexpected Forces That Shape How We Think, Feel, and Behave, NYU professor Adam Alter cites research where rather than invigorating the mind, good weather blunts cognitive function. Participants in the study were able to recall three times as many items on cloudy days versus sunny ones.

An affront to my Florida upbring, I was surprised that sunshine dulls the mind. However, the rationale makes sense. As Alter explains it:

Humans are biologically predisposed to avoid sadness, and they respond to sad moods by seeking opportunities for mood repair and vigilantly protecting themselves against whatever might be making them sad. In contrast, happiness sends a signal that everything is fine, the environment doesn’t pose an imminent threat, and there’s no need to think deeply and carefully.

Bad weather induces a more negative mood state. We then subconsciously try to overcome this feeling by searching for stimuli that can supersede our dampened mood with happier options. These options include enhanced curiosity, problem solving, and creativity.

To utilize this research, an X-Men world would allow us to make it rain every weekday between 8am and 6pm. Since we don’t have Storm’s abilities, I’d recommend scanning the weather channel each morning. Try scheduling brainstorming sessions around impending storm fronts. Conduct the meeting in a room with windows so everyone can see the rain and, if possible, open a window so they can hear it and smell it.

If seizing on weather-induced bad moods seems devious, consider that the blustery weather already put them in a bad mood. Since you aren’t Storm, you did not create the rain; you’re just making the most of a stormy situation.