Complaining workers harming their careers

Stress bragging hurts careers - Newsreel
Workers who constantly brag that they are overworked are hurting their careers, according to new research. | Photo: Kobus Louw (iStock)

Workers who constantly “brag” that they are stressed and overworked are harming their reputations and careers.

New research from the University of Georgia (UGA) found workers often used language around busyness and work stress as a way of spruiking their work ethic.

But this approach usually backfired and created perceptions that they were not competent or likeable.

Study lead author Jessica Rodell, from UGA’s Terry College of Business, said the researchers believed some people regularly talked about their work stress as a way of demonstrating their value.

“(But) people are harming themselves by doing this thing they think is going to make them look better to their colleagues,” Professor Rodell said.

“When somebody is constantly talking about and bragging about their stress, it makes it seem like it is a good thing to be stressed.

“It just spills over onto the co-worker next to them. They wind up feeling more stressed, which leads to higher burnout or withdrawal from their work. Think of it as this spiralling contagious effect from one person to the next.”

The research involved 360 participants who compared statements from imaginary co-workers who just returned from a conference.

Participants rated their imaginary co-worker on likability, competence and the likelihood they would help the co-worker at work.

Stress-bragging workers were rated as significantly less likable and less competent than someone who just said work had been stressful or who talked about how great the conference was.

Professor Rodell’s team found similar results from surveys of an additional 218 real-life employees.

The researchers also found employees with co-workers who “stress bragged” often reported higher levels of personal stress and burnout.

“The takeaway for employees is to think twice before boasting about their heavy workload or overloaded schedule,” Professor Rodell said.

“If you genuinely feel stressed, it’s okay to find the right confidant to share with and talk about it,” she said. “But be mindful that it is not a badge of honour to be bragged about – that will backfire.”