• Ali H.

Leaving work at work, ruminating leaders.

As leaders, most of our development comes in the form of supporting our teams and improving business performance; as such, we master the ability to absorb and pick up our teams’ woes. Interestingly, we rarely see development focused on enabling leaders to a) recover from work and b) improve recovery experiences within their teams. In case you missed them, I have previously written about team recovery, as well as psychological detachment. For a large proportion of leaders, you would have likely experienced work-related rumination, large projects with tight deadlines, or the team grumbles that you can’t just leave at work! The challenge with this is that it can leave you feeling a bit flat, unable to problem-solve, and under recovered.

We understand that psychological detachment is both the absence of work-related thoughts and the ability to engage in thoughts from other activities such as time with the family or involvement in something we enjoy like doing, sports. At the other end of this continuum, we have the intensity of work-related thoughts, more specifically, work-related rumination. This worry is negative, mostly un-controllable, revolves around a common theme and is recurring. In essence, work-related rumination is work-related thoughts during non-work time.

Work-related rumination can be split into two.

  • Affective rumination, which can be considered as intrusive, recuring with negative thoughts about work.

  • Problem-solving rumination, which is unemotional and lengthy thinking about solutions to a particular work-related problem.

Some of the challenges with affective rumination is that it is likely to interfere with our problem-solving ability. One of the ways that it can play havoc on our problem-solving ability is that it can sap our motivation and initiative, and these ruminative thoughts keep us from engaging in constructive behaviour. These worries can cause real challenges for leaders in non-work time when it comes to switching off, and we might even create ‘safety’ behaviours that in turn make things worse. Furthermore, for those with the tendency to negatively ruminate, overtime can serve as a significant risk factor for clinical depression.

Put simply, in non-work time, our focus should be on achieving our recovery experiences.

Distraction as an alternative.

There are some promising angles for us to explore as we start to think about developing leadership wellbeing self-efficacy.

  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy focused on the development of psychological detachment. In a review, those with better recovery self-efficacy, are more likely to achieve psychological detachment. Ultimately, we are looking to develop our skills in the four recovery experiences. I would also suggest, if you know you ruminate, speak to a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist.

  • Interventions focused on positive distractions. If we can use these effectively, we might only need a small number of activities as long as they help us achieve flow. These interventions could be good alternative when people find themselves ruminating in a negative way. This in turn, supports the individual in lifting their mood and reframing their approach through problem-solving.

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