Journaling – a downside

journal-1090599_640I was chatting with someone last week about a HRy type issue whereby one person’s conduct was causing issues in an organisation.  The behaviour of person in question seemed to be upsetting many different people over a fairly sustained period of time and was/is causing difficulties for others.

One useful piece of advice that was given to someone who is on the ‘receiving end’ of this behaviour was to keep a log or a diary/journal of what is happening and when.  This is so a) there is a record, b) that the person on the ‘receiving end’ can see if there are any patterns or trends in the occurrences and c) so that if there was ever a discussion with the difficult person it can be specific.

From a positive psychology angle,  journaling on experiences that have been good or things that have gone well or focusing on successes have been shown to create greater (reported) happiness, energy levels and creativity.  The reason for that is the person completing the journal makes a deliberate effort to remind themselves of the things that have gone well, thereby reinforcing the memory and the trigger of that happy (or similar) emotion.

In the example from my chat last week, those same things will occur:

  • Memory relived and more vivid
  • Trigger reinforced

This time though, if we imagine the dominant emotion was anger, it is the anger that is being repeatedly relived and the trigger of ‘that person/that person’s actions’ makes or made me angry.  Therefore, when an interaction occurs with that person and an action that if done by another (or by this person before the diary/journal was kept) would be a 4/10 now can become a 7 or 8 or 9/10.  This possible increase in intensity or duration of the emotion can mean it is out of proportion to the trigger or incident at hand.

Does that mean journals for these incidents should be avoided?


It means that as HR folk and as people, we need to make sure that we are aware of how strategies can have other affects than those we intend.


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