5 considerations for leaders who vent frustration at work

vent frustration

We’ve all had challenging times at work. Sometimes, nothing can feel better than to vent frustration with a trusted colleague. However, venting frustration can become problematic if you’re not careful.

The worst happens when your work environment turns into a place of extreme negativity. I’ve been in workplaces like that, and it’s not fun. The “echo chamber” effect kicks in, and soon enough it seems as if everything everybody says is negative and critical. People aren’t happy, and they tend to wallow in the negativity. It can be a hard cycle to break once you’re in the habit.

I’d hazard a guess that any leader has vented their frustration with a colleague at some time or another. As with most things, moderation is best. Personally, I find that to vent frustration with a colleague can be a valuable mental health aid. But over the years, I’ve become more conscious of the pitfalls that can happen if you overindulge and become addicted!

1. Don’t vent frustration openly in public

Sounds obvious? You might think so. But sometimes when people become frustrated and lose patience, venting conversations can happen right out in the open. Some people get to the point where they think “everyone needs to hear this.”

Except that they don’t. Nobody really needs to hear this. Remember that to vent frustration is often not to fix a problem. It’s to help to maintain your composure and sanity, rather than letting everybody know how frustrated you are.

In addition, you need to be careful about venting in front of your team. This can send the message that you aren’t in control, which can be damaging for a leader’s reputation.

2. For every dose of frustration, balance it with something positive

You don’t want your workplace or team turning into a pit of despair. If you choose to vent frustration, keep the negativity in check. Team members see your example and often follow it.

For every negative comment you make while venting, think about something positive to say. Reframing your mind with a positive thought can be a powerful way to stop slipping into negativity like a nice warm bath.

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3. Remember that not everybody is stupid

Often we vent frustration because someone has done something we don’t like. Or the organisation doesn’t work the way we’d like it to. Or things happen too slowly. And those people just “don’t get it”. Be careful not to get into the habit of thinking that everyone is stupid, except for your team.

This can start to build an adversarial mindset which can be damaging to the way your team interacts with the rest of the organisation.

4. Take action to fix problems, rather than vent about them continuously

It’s easy to just vent frustration with your situation, rather than to actually fix it. This is especially true when it comes to people who you are frustrated with.

“Mei Ling is just so stupid. Why doesn’t she get what we’re trying to do?”

Sometimes venting is just to ease your own frustration. But what if it could be used for good? Everything you vent about probably has a solution. And often people who are frustrated with others don’t even tell them about it.

Is it time to have an open conversation with the source of your frustration, rather than to vent about it, with no constructive outcome? You’d be amazed how much a conversation can help.

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5. Don’t make venting frustration all you talk about

Many of us have “venting partners” that help us get through the struggles of the workplace. It’s normal, and can be healthy when kept in check. However, it can become problematic when all you ever speak about with your venting partner are negative topics.

If all you ever do is talk about negativity and frustration, this is what you’re going to continue to do. Not only can this put a strain on personal relationships, but it can also make it more difficult to maintain a more positive mindset. Once again, it’s all about balance.

To err is human. To vent frustration is too. We aren’t perfect, and sometimes it feels great to have a good old chinwag about that idiot from accounting that just doesn’t get it.

Over the years I’ve come to see both how rewarding and damaging venting your frustration at work can be. So take heed of these 5 guidelines for safe venting. The workplace can be tough, so be careful.

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