Co-ruminating with work friends by the water cooler?

Topic: Gender
Publication: Journal of Business and Psychology (MAR 2011)
Article: Co-Rumination in the Workplace: Adjustment Trade-offs for Men and Women
Who Engage in Excessive Discussion of Workplace Problems.
Authors: D.L. Haggard, C. Robert, A.J. Rose
Reviewed By: Rebecca Eckart

Developmental psychology has long studied this phenomenon: when friends excessively discuss personal problems in an intense, repetitive and speculative manner(termed co-rumination), they experience a significant increase in the quality of theirfriendship, but also an increase in negative adjustment outcomes (e.g., depression). Recently, researchers have become interested in whether this trend also occurs in theworkplace. 

Haggard, Robert, and Rose (2011) reported in a recent study that women tend toengage in more co-rumination about work problems than men. And in an environmentwith an abusive supervisor (defined as a supervisor that continually exhibits verbaland/or non-verbal behaviors, excluding physical contact), this co-rumination is actuallyassociated with increased negative outcomes (e.g., work-family conflict) for women.The good news is that in the absence of an abusive supervisor, co-rumination is notsignificantly related to any negative outcomes for women.

Men engage in less co-rumination overall. However, when they do engage inthis behavior in an environment with an abusive supervisor, they experience decreased negative outcomes (lower depression, increased job satisfaction). When they engage in this behavior in an environment with low abusive supervision, they experienceincreased negative outcomes (increased depression, job satisfaction, work-familyconflict). So apparently, men who co-ruminate in an environment that has high levels ofabusive supervision are actually relatively well-adjusted when compared to other men,but the same outcomes were not reported in situations with low supervisor abuse. 

So discussing workplace problems with a co-worker can be a useful copingstrategy for dealing with stress, but it can also be related to increased negative effectsdepending on the situation. For organizations, this research provides some insight intosituations when it is useful to provide social support to employees.


Haggard, D.L., C. Robert, C., & Rose, A.J. (2011). Co-Rumination in the Workplace:Adjustment Trade-offs for Men and Women Who Engage in Excessive Discussion ofWorkplace Problems. Journal of Business and Psychology, 26, 27-40.