How to channel your frustration at work—the right way

On average, people vent their frustrations four to five times a day in the workplace. While, at times, this approach may give us a feeling of satisfaction, the feeling is often short-lived. Reality soon sinks in… we start to realize the problem still exists and often regret what we said, how we said it and who we said it to.

While the easiest solution to avoid this dilemma is to stop venting, that just isn’t practical. We are human. It’s in our DNA to want to share our feelings and to blow off steam.

So rather than trying to stop our office ranting altogether, here are steps on how to productively vent out your frustration at work.

First, calm down

The biggest mistake you can make is voicing your concerns when you are angry.  When you are acting in the heat of the moment, you are not thinking logically and are at an increased risk of behaving unprofessionally and out of character. The outcome could be a damaged reputation or a poorly executed decision.

Go for a walk. Read an inspiring article. Work from home the rest of the day. Journal about your feelings.

Do whatever you need to do to get a hold of yourself before talking to anyone at the office about your situation.

Remember not to bite the hand that feeds you

Your place of employment pays you and supports both your personal and professional success. Don’t forget this! If you are going to vent, be as respectful as possible to your co-workers and employer. You can accomplish this by:

  • Limit the number of teammates you vent to and how much time you spend with them. The more people you vent to, the more disruptive you are. Select a trusted colleague, schedule a brief amount of time with them, vent and then be done with it. There is no need to re-tell your story 100 times to 100 people.
  • Keep your gossiping light. When you express your frustrations be as generic as possible. Never finger-point, name drop, divulge confidential information, or say anything that could come to bite you later on.
  • Be solution-focused. Rather than just talking about your concerns and frustrations, use your complaint session to also brainstorm ways to fix the problem.

Go to the right source

If someone or something is bothering you it may make sense to deal with it head-on (when of course you are emotionally stable and ready). Why risk opening up to the wrong person, hurting your reputation, bringing others down, or “getting caught” when you could be upfront and honest with that person directly? Nowadays, managers and co-workers alike are more open to constructive feedback and sharing feelings.

If you feel as though it is too soon to open up to that person, consider setting up a meeting with your Human Resources Business Partner. They are there to listen, to coach and to counsel and the best part is they are required to handle your situation professionally (as opposed to a co-worker who may circulate your concerns through the rumor mill).

You may also want to see if your employer offers an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). EAPs offer free and confidential services to employees who are experiencing challenges, such as stress, workplace anxiety and personal problems. They help by guiding employees to the right external people and resources that can help to solve their problems.

In closing, be smart about your workplace complaining and do everything you can to avoid having your venting result in an even bigger problem. You only have one reputation so do everything you can to protect it.

Danielle Clark is a human resources manager with more than 10 years of HR and customer service experience in healthcare and retail organizations. Her work with Fortune 500 companies, in addition to a diverse professional and academic background, has trained Clark to be results-driven, people-focused and a thought-provoking leader. Her goal is to educate and inspire professionals to change their way of thinking. She is also an adjunct professor, active community volunteer, wife, mother and passionate lifelong learner.

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