Why Ruminating Employees Are Less Effective

Why Ruminating Employees Are Less Effective

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Why Ruminating Employees Are Less Effective


We all do it. We all think and anticipate what’s going to happen in the future, or dwell about mistakes we have made in the past.

Thinking about the past in such a way is what psychologists call Rumination, and in a new research study of 600 employees in the United States, published in the Organizational Behaviour and Human Decision Processes journal, they show the difference between “Forward Thinkers” and “Ruminators” and how it impacts performance improvement.

The research, conducted by the Florida State University College of Business, in conjunction with the University of Arkansas, determined that about 20% of the 600, roughly 120 could be classed as “Ruminators” while 40%, about 240 of those used in study were classed as “Forward Thinkers”. The remaining 40% were classed somewhere between the two, with characteristics that combined both groups to some extent. The 20% who were classed as “Ruminators” tended to have the worse problems, according to the research:

50% had higher levels of low mood or were in a depressed state
40% had problems sleeping or had greater disruptions to sleep
35% had more strained relationships with colleagues
30% had higher work-related stress levels
25% were less proactive in their work activities

Rumination therefore hampers an employee’s ability to work, and although it is good to look back and study your mistakes, and look at what went wrong to improve in future, it is better to think less about the past and make the future the priority as soon as possible.

This is easier said than done as the study points out, especially as ruminating is a habitual behaviour which is hard to get out of. The study authors recommend a varied approach including pairing up “Ruminators” with “Forward Thinkers,” looking at past interactions and picking a couple of positive events to help them move forward, and finally being disciplined to ruminate for only a set time period during the day.




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