Publication on “Collective rumination”: how focusing on the negative affects organizational resilience

Each and every one of us has experienced it: adversity and negative experiences on the job. Talking about these experiences with colleagues helps teams and organizations to strengthen their resilience – but can also have negative effects. PD Dr. Kristin Knipfer, Executive Director TUM Institute for LifeLong Learning, and Barbara Kump, Assistant Professor at the Vienna University of Economics and Business, have now published a paper on this topic.

Research is an essential part of the TUM Institute for LifeLong Learning: In our programs, we bundle the latest scientific findings from all fields of TUM and use innovative teaching and learning methods. PD Dr. Kristin Knipfer, Executive Director of the TUM Institute for LifeLong Learning, together with Barbara Kump, has now studied the topic of “collective rumination” and published their findings in the magazine “Applied Psychology”.

Negative experiences can strengthen – or undermine – team culture and resilience

While social interactions are commonly viewed as an important resource for organizational resilience, dysfunctional social interactions and their negative impact on coping with and overcoming adversity are less well researched. One example is “collective rumination” – defined as repetitive and persistent discussions about adverse events that focus on the negative and uncontrollable aspects of the situation.

For the researchers, one thing is clear: On the one hand, it’s important for teams to talk about negative experiences after they happen, so they can work through them and be better prepared for similar situations in the future. This approach is known as “social sharing” and strengthens the highly relevant resilience of organizations. However, according to researchers, if bad experiences, worst-case scenarios and uncontrollable events take center stage over the long term, this very resilience can be jeopardized by the spiral of negative thoughts and feelings.

The scientific contribution now closes a gap in the research field around the “problem talk”, which can cause a real vicious circle. Employees who participate in collective rumination over a longer period are less willing to actively deal with the discussed problem and to get it out of the way. This lack of motivation can spread to the entire team. The researchers’ article is intended to support teams and team leaders in recognizing the negative spiral in good time and counteracting it in a targeted manner.

You can read the article free of charge here.

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