Venting at Work – Why, and How, You Should Do It

VENTING (verb): an opportunity or means of escape, passage, or release: OUTLET

If you are a member of the United States workforce, chances are you have spent a fair amount of time discreetly gathered with colleagues passionately discussing your employer’s problems and pitfalls. A common term for this practice is venting, and while some view it as problematic, I believe it can actually be quite productive if done correctly. Letting off steam and talking through your frustrations with coworkers who are also in your shoes, and therefore are able to provide empathetic support, can be therapeutic. With that said, healthy venting is a delicate balance that can easily cross into dangerous territory if you don’t set guidelines for yourself. So, to emotionally offload about work without provoking unnecessary negativity and discontent, I offer these five suggestions:

1. DO allow yourself to vent about the boss as long as you keep it harmless. This one is inevitable anyway, so it’s probably better to share your frustrations with like-minded co-workers rather than with the boss him/herself, at least in those minor, day-to-day situations. DON’T, however, gossip about co-workers. It’s never productive, rarely ends well, and probably won’t make you feel better anyway.

2. DO set limits. Venting can be like a forest fire that starts small then grows and grows until it’s out of control. If the conversation gets going at happy hour, take it upon yourself to change the subject after half an hour. Or perhaps don’t permit yourself to engage in venting sessions more than once daily, three times a week, or whatever measure you deem appropriate.

3. In that same vein, DO identify a small group of trusted colleagues and keep your venting sessions to just those people. This will help prevent your feelings from being misinterpreted and therefore creating an unintentional controversy. Still working from home? Schedule a special time with one of these colleagues to chat by phone at least once a week to keep your frustrations from reaching the boiling point.

4. DO share venting stories from friends, spouses and partners with co-workers. It’s important to realize that no job is perfect, and the grass usually isn’t greener other side. Sharing the trials and tribulations others are going through reinforces that fact both to you and your fellow employees.

5. DO consider the circumstances. Give your employer some grace if your company is going through difficult times, a global pandemic for example. Although elevated stress levels and uncertain working conditions might create an even greater than usual need for venting, try to focus those conversations more on the bigger picture rather than on your employer’s shortcomings. Most likely, your employer has the company’s, and therefore your, very best interests at heart and is doing everything in their power to reestablish a stable and satisfying work environment.

In summary, you don’t have to view your venting as complaining, ungratefulness or negativity. Instead consider venting, when kept within reasonable limits, to be a healthy release of the frustrations that are inevitably an element of any job. Your employer may even thank you for it – after all, a happier employee is ultimately a better employee.

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