John Stancavage: Don't let whiners at work damage your brain
BY JOHN STANCAVAGE World Business Editor
Sunday, November 04, 2012
11/04/12 at 2:49 AM
I have a friend who doesn't suffer complainers for long.
After a few minutes of hearing them drone on, he'll cast a disdainful eye at them and ask, "Do you want some cheese with that whine?"
Whining seems everywhere in the workplace these days, especially because the challenging economy of the past few years has helped eliminate a lot of the perks of being employed, such as bonuses and even raises, and replaced them with more responsibilities and longer hours.
A lot of people still remember "the good old days" before the Great Recession when work was spread among more people and there was time for an occasional coffee break or chat with your cubicle neighbor.
Some of those employees, especially, are the ones I hear whining today. "Why do I have to do that? Can't you give it to someone else? Why me?"
Everyone gets overextended at times, and it isn't a bad thing once in a while to point out politely to your manager that your kids haven't seen you in a week. Hard-core whiners, on the other hand, seem to excel at claiming they are swamped when not a whole lot seems to be coming from their desks.
Overwork is just one category seized upon by master whiners. There are many more - senior managers can't do anything right, the company they worked for 10 years ago did it better, economic conditions make their goals impossible, etc., etc.
I think listening to whiners - and trying to cajole them into doing their jobs - is one of the most exhausting tasks for a manager. Personally, I'd rather slog through a spreadsheet than listen to someone whine.
Constant complaining, it turns out, is not only unpleasant but can also actually rot your brain. I am not making this up.
According to a recent article in Inc. magazine, neuroscientists have discovered that exposure to 30 minutes or more of negativity damages neurons in the brain's hippocampus, the area responsible for memory and problem solving.
The Inc. article quotes Trevor Blake, author of "Three Simple Steps: A Map to Success in Business and Life," as saying that whiners don't really want a solution. "They just want you to join in the indignity of the whole thing."
So what to do? Blake offered three tips:
Such tuning out is crucial, he said.
- Get some distance. Stay away from complainers when possible.
- Ask the whiner to fix the problem. Say, "What are you going to do about it?"
- Mentally protect yourself. Blake suggests visualizing an impenetrable barrier around yourself, much the way the crew of Star Trek's Enterprise used to "raise shields."
"(Whining) will damage your brain even if you are just passively listening," Blake said.
Original Print Headline: Whining can damage your brain