Venting and Gossip are Bad for Your Health
Thank you to Dr. Davana Pilczuk of The Human Performance Group for this article. Dr. Pilczuk is an award-winning kinesiologist who specializes in human performance. She is a speaker, writer and consultant for Fortune 500 companies, sports teams and small businesses.
I love a good bit of gossip. Admit it; you do to. Its a little thrill in our day that gives us an emotional charge that’s similar to watching some unexpected Netflix season finale plot twist. Venting has the same effect, but is even more rewarding since we are the focus of the storyline. But the downside of gossiping and venting is this: it’s making you stressed and its hurting your business’ bottom line.
Gossiping and venting make us feel good because the body gets a shot of adrenaline when we relive an emotional story. The more upsetting and shocking the story, the greater the chemical hit. The fun part of venting is that we get to tell a shocking story that allows us to point the finger at someone else, assume little to know blame in ourselves, and receive affirmation that this event wasn’t our fault. Physiologically, it’s extremely rewarding.
Venting serves a purpose and I don’t want to discount the need for it. It provides us with an avenue to talk about the things that upset us in life and it allow us to connect with another human being who might understand our pain. But venting can take a toll on our health. When adrenaline spikes, so does cortisol a stress hormone, and both of these increase inside of us when we retell painful stories of being hurt or wronged. We physiologically induce the stress response inside of ourselves, which makes us feel empowered and egotistically ‘right’ as our bodies physically experience some of that microtrauma again. While its ok to vent now and then, keep yourself in check about don’t let it go past 10 minutes. Get it out. Get the shock and awe response from your pals. Then stop.
If you know someone who tends to vent incessantly, do not aid in raising their stress response. Be a good friend by listening for a few minutes, then gently say, “Wow that’s a lot. I’m sorry you had to go through that. And maybe its time you can find a way to put it behind you because its’ taking a toll on you having to carry this pain around. I’d be happy to help you with that.” So if you want to start to reduce your stress levels at work, start with reducing the venting
If companies paid attention to the amount of productivity time that was lost solely due to gossiping and complaining, the numbers would be shocking. If every one of your employees gossips for a mere 30 minutes a day, that’s two and a half hours a week. In a month, that’s more than an entire day lost to gossip for every person who works for you. And when we are upset, like after a hefty vent session, it takes about an hour for the body to come off that adrenaline rush, which means we aren’t very productive during that time.
We all need to vent or gossip at some point. Its human nature to want to connect and gossiping is one of the ways we do it. But give gossip, like venting, a time limit. Stick to the 10-minute rule, then kindly bow out of the conversation. If you have a serial gossiper, remember they gossip because they get something out of your reaction to the story. Give little to no response and you will eventually no longer be their gossip pal.
Stress is one of the main things employees complain about and providing a work place that is calm, safe and free of frequent vent and gossip sessions is one simple way to help lower that stress. Promote the free exchange of ideas. Watch how you discipline poor performance and how you react to frustration. Subordinates are always watching and bad behavior provides great fodder for gossip. So keep yourself in check and keep stress levels low for the good of your health, productivity and everyone’s sanity.