July 9, 2014
Several months ago I was facilitating a workshop on communication, and the topic of venting came up. One manager shared that she consistently vents to her boss about challenges in her position, like interpersonal issues with employees or co-workers. She felt since she has a good relationship with her vice president, that it seemed natural to vent to her when she was having challenges. "I need someone to vent my frustrations to so I can feel better. I use her as an outlet," she said.
Venting can be good in some situations and help a person feel better by talking things out or working through emotions. But you should never vent to your boss. Even if you have a great relationship with your boss, venting can be risky to your career. By definition, venting means "to express one's thoughts or feelings, especially forcefully." There is a big difference between venting and expressing your thoughts carefully.
If you have a great relationship with your boss, then occasionally sharing challenges and frustrations may be appropriate and natural. Yet consistently using your manager as an outlet to express aggravations only adds to your boss's problems. She may start to view you as not being able to effectively handle challenges in your role, and it may affect how she views your performance. Whether your boss is the CEO or a mid level manager, she has a lot on her plate and would probably welcome not being involved in every challenging situation.
When faced with a challenging or frustrating situation, ask yourself these questions:
- What part of this situation can I control?
- What are two or three ways I could resolve this situation?
- How could I effectively approach this person to get the best result (if you're dealing with an interpersonal conflict)?
- Will I handle this situation more effectively if I take a day to cool down?
- Is this something my boss needs to be involved in, or is it something I can handle on my own?
After asking yourself these questions, if you feel it's appropriate to involve your boss, then approach it constructively by carefully framing the challenge you are facing and sharing the possible solutions you are considering. If you are seeking guidance, let your boss know that you are open to coaching around the challenge and need some advice or a different perspective.
Most leaders would welcome not being involved in every challenge and gladly allow their employees to resolve their own issues.
Now, I'd love to hear from you. What strategies have you used to deal with challenges or frustrations at work?
Laurie J. Maddalena, MBA, CPCC, PHR, is a certified executive coach, consultant and founder of Envision Excellence, LLC, Rockville, Md. She was also an HR executive at a $450 million credit union. Contact her at 240.605.7940 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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