Sunday, June 23, 2024
Sunday June 23, 2024
Sunday June 23, 2024

Stress bragging: The hidden dangers of workplace boasts and their impact



A new study reveals that stress bragging can harm both the boaster and their colleagues, leading to decreased likability and increased stress levels

Stress bragging, the act of boasting about being stressed at work, has emerged as a significant workplace behaviour. While some might think it showcases their competence and dedication, research indicates it can have detrimental effects. A study published in the journal Personnel Psychology found that stress bragging can make individuals less likeable and perceived as less competent by their colleagues.

This term, although relatively new, describes an age-old tactic. Stress bragging involves employees frequently talking about how overwhelmed they are, ostensibly to demonstrate their effectiveness and commitment to their job. However, this behaviour can backfire, resulting in negative perceptions and strained workplace relationships.

The study, which involved 360 participants rating an imaginary co-worker who engaged in stress bragging, uncovered notable consequences. Colleagues often view stress braggarts as less likeable and less competent. Moreover, they become less inclined to offer help to these individuals during challenging times. The lead author of the study, Jessica Rodell, emphasizes that the issue lies not in being stressed, but in how it’s communicated. “If I perceive you as stressed, I actually see you as more competent,” Rodell explains. “But constantly bragging about it undermines that perception.”

The adverse effects of stress bragging extend beyond the individual. Colleagues who frequently hear about others’ stress can experience increased stress levels themselves. This phenomenon, described by Rodell as a “spiralling contagious effect,” can lead to higher burnout rates and withdrawal from work. Essentially, stress bragging normalizes workplace stress, causing it to spill over to others and creating a more stressful environment for everyone.

In addressing stress braggarts, ignoring them might not suffice. The behaviour’s impact on the broader workplace necessitates a more proactive approach. Encouraging a culture of genuine support and open communication can help mitigate the negative effects of stress bragging. Rodell advises finding the right confidant to share genuine stress with, rather than treating stress as a badge of honor.

The study’s findings highlight the importance of how stress is communicated in the workplace. It’s crucial to distinguish between seeking support and boasting about one’s stress. While it’s natural to feel overwhelmed at times, constantly talking about it can create a toxic environment. By being mindful of how stress is shared, employees can foster a healthier, more supportive workplace.


The phenomenon of stress bragging, although seemingly trivial, has significant implications for workplace dynamics and mental health. This behaviour reflects broader societal attitudes toward work and stress, where being overworked is often seen as a sign of productivity and success. However, the study published in Personnel Psychology challenges this notion by highlighting the negative consequences for both the bragger and their colleagues.

From a psychological perspective, stress bragging can be seen as a coping mechanism. Individuals might boast about their stress to gain sympathy, validation, or admiration from their peers. However, this strategy is counterproductive. Instead of garnering support, it leads to social isolation and decreased likability. Colleagues perceive stress braggarts as less competent, which undermines their professional reputation and effectiveness in collaborative environments.

Sociologically, stress bragging contributes to a culture that normalizes excessive stress and overwork. This normalization can have detrimental effects on workplace well-being, as it sets unrealistic expectations for productivity and endurance. Employees might feel pressured to conform to this culture, leading to increased stress levels and burnout. The study’s findings underscore the need for workplaces to address and deconstruct these harmful norms.

Economically, the impact of stress bragging on workplace productivity cannot be overlooked. Higher levels of stress and burnout among employees can result in increased absenteeism, reduced efficiency, and higher turnover rates. Organizations must recognize the economic costs associated with a stressed workforce and invest in initiatives that promote mental health and well-being. Creating a supportive work environment where stress is acknowledged and addressed, rather than glorified, can lead to better overall performance and job satisfaction.

From a leadership perspective, managers and supervisors play a crucial role in shaping workplace culture. They need to model healthy stress management behaviours and create an environment where employees feel comfortable discussing their stress without fear of judgment or repercussions. Encouraging open communication and providing resources for stress management can help mitigate the negative effects of stress bragging.

Gender dynamics also play a role in stress bragging. Research indicates that men and women might experience and express workplace stress differently. Women, for instance, might be more likely to seek social support, while men might be more inclined to boast about their stress to assert their competence. Understanding these gendered patterns can help organizations develop targeted interventions that address the specific needs of different employees.

In conclusion, the phenomenon of stress bragging reveals deeper issues related to workplace culture, mental health, and productivity. By recognizing and addressing the negative consequences of stress bragging, organizations can foster a more supportive and healthy work environment. This, in turn, can lead to improved employee well-being, better workplace relationships, and enhanced overall performance.


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