When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Already a subscriber? Log in .

You've reached your limit of one free article.

Get unlimited access to Worldcrunch

You can cancel anytime .


Exclusive International news coverage

Ad-free experience NEW

Weekly digital Magazine NEW

9 daily & weekly Newsletters

Access to Worldcrunch archives

Free trial

30-days free access, then $2.90
per month.

Annual Access BEST VALUE

$19.90 per year, save $14.90 compared to monthly billing.save $14.90.

Subscribe to Worldcrunch

The Worst Co-Worker Of All? Joe Complainer

Studies show that complaining to colleagues creates a large share of office stress. Two writers recently tried to abstain from sharing their woes for a whole month.

Negative attitudes are contagious ...
Negative attitudes are contagious ...
Daniela Arce Valiente

SANTIAGO DE CHILE — Thirteen years ago, when my mom was immersing herself in the Japanese alternative treatment therapy reiki, she shared with me the spiritual practice's five principles.

As I read them, I thought that applying them to my daily life would be an impossible task. Its first two principles advise not to be angry and not to worry. The others are to honor your parents, teachers and the elderly, to earn a living by honorable means, and to show gratitude for everything around you.

That was some years ago. But that time-honored advice immediately came back to me when I read about the Complaint/Restraint project by Thierry Blancpain and Pieter Pelgrims, who pledged in February to avoid complaining for a month and asked others to join them. As they later explained, the result was a happier and more positive life. To those who registered to participate in the project, they sent reminders about maintaining their pledge.

More than 1,750 people took part, though this principle could help countless others who endure the daily deluge of complaints by colleagues, friends, bosses and relatives. Because complaining is not unusual, it's insidious and particularly troublesome when it's abused by toxic people who create tensions in the workplace and reduce productivity.

A recent study by the psychology department at Germany's Friedrich Schiller University indicates that exposure to stimuli that generate strong negative emotions, or being close to toxic individuals, is stressful. Characterized as demotivators, these are the people we are told to avoid at work. An article in Forbes magazine likewise describes them as most dangerous to their colleagues' mental well-being, because negative attitudes are contagious.

Not helping, Dan — Photo: beglen

The contagion is explained "by the inability to face frustrations and accept people's differences," says Julia Vargas, a lecturer at Peru's USMP university. She says certain people "have gotten used to complaining about themselves and others to attract attention, because of their need for recognition, low self-esteem, limited emotional intelligence and low adaptability."

But not only do the rest of us suffer, so does the complainer. Vargas says it can be harmful to that person if he or she doesn't seek to resolve it. The complainer "becomes filled with frustrations and stress, as there will be difficulties he or she will not be able to resolve fully or in the short term."

Complaining, therefore, has no benefits, not even as catharsis or emotional release. Worse, it becomes a habit. So if you are a complainer, follow Vargas's guidance: "Becoming conscious of the attitude, assuming that nobody is perfect, accepting personality differences and understanding that what we don't like about someone could be because they remind us of someone else we dislike. Accept coworkers' work, both in terms of pace and quality, and try and understand people and always think positively."

Many may believe such advice is impossible to put into practice, like I did as a child when my mother told me about reiki's five principles. But consider how you could set about curbing the complaining habit for yourself. Who knows, you might even sign up for next year's Complaint/Restraint project.

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.


Life On "Mars": With The Teams Simulating Space Missions Under A Dome

A niche research community plays out what existence might be like on, or en route to, another planet.

Photo of a person in a space suit walking toward the ​Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah

At the Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah

Sarah Scoles

In November 2022, Tara Sweeney’s plane landed on Thwaites Glacier, a 74,000-square-mile mass of frozen water in West Antarctica. She arrived with an international research team to study the glacier’s geology and ice fabric, and how its ice melt might contribute to sea level rise. But while near Earth’s southernmost point, Sweeney kept thinking about the moon.

“It felt every bit of what I think it will feel like being a space explorer,” said Sweeney, a former Air Force officer who’s now working on a doctorate in lunar geology at the University of Texas at El Paso. “You have all of these resources, and you get to be the one to go out and do the exploring and do the science. And that was really spectacular.”

That similarity is why space scientists study the physiology and psychology of people living in Antarctic and other remote outposts: For around 25 years, people have played out what existence might be like on, or en route to, another world. Polar explorers are, in a way, analogous to astronauts who land on alien planets. And while Sweeney wasn’t technically on an “analog astronaut” mission — her primary objective being the geological exploration of Earth — her days played out much the same as a space explorer’s might.

Keep reading...Show less

The latest