The sometimes unrelenting stress of a job can keep both employees and leaders awake at night. They toss and turn as they ruminate about a variety of issues, such as whether an important customer will sign a new contract or if there will be layoffs after a merger.
But two workplace scientists say that there is a way to make teams more resilient so that they can handle whatever changes come their way without having sleepless nights. Even leaders can learn to let go of fruitless worrying and focus on finding new solutions or ideas, they say.
“The only thing that should legitimately keep you awake at night is a book you just can’t put down or a movie you just have to see through to the end. Rumination never solves anything. In fact, it has the opposite effect and may well be giving you a definitely more miserable and probably shorter life in the process,” says Derek Roger, a psychologist who has spent three decades researching the causes and effects of stress.
Roger, along with Nick Petrie, is author of “Work Without Stress: Building a Resilient Mindset for Lasting Success.” They say that rumination prolongs the “emotional misery” and isn’t just a by-product of stress. “It is stress. If there’s no rumination, there’s no stress,” they write.
Petrie, senior faculty member at the Center for Creative Leadership, says that if teams don’t develop a more resilient approach to problems or challenges, then organizations will see an increase in stress, sick leave, disengagement and suffering. “It is hard to watch the way people who have no coping tools, and ruminate so much, are suffering in the workplaces,” he says. “It seems predictable but unnecessary.”
Roger and Petrie point out that rumination is primarily a conditioned habit, and it can be changed by individuals who practice doing it.
One way to do that, for example, is by an individual considering the last time he or she was up all night, fretting over an issue.
“What did it look like in the morning? The problem hasn’t disappeared, but the catastrophizing about it has generally dissolved, at least to an extent,” Roger explains. “This is not to suggest that ‘sleeping on it’ will solve (read more here)