By Ben Stapley
Sweeping emotions under the carpet is not healthy in our personal or professional lives. But neither is the opposite extreme of oversharing.
Here are six guardrails to help you, your team and your organization express themselves in a healthy manner.
We’ve all inappropriately handled our emotions at work. We’ve either stuffed our emotions when we should’ve shared them. Or we’ve spewed emotions when we should’ve stayed silent.
Below are six best practices that have helped me vent in a constructive manner as an employee. Sharing in case they help you, your team and your organization move towards a healthier place.
#1: Venting is healthy: Unprocessed emotions don’t resolve on their own. They usually fester and become more toxic over time. I’m starting with this baseline because some of us were raised to bottle all our emotions, which is not beneficial. So, first of all, realize that venting is healthy for yourself and others. It allows you to move on and prevents you from lashing out.
#2: Vent “up”: Venting is healthy. But venting in every direction is not healthy. Venting should strictly go in one direction in organizations: up, to your manager. So bring emotional concerns that you have not been able to resolve on your own to your manager. They will help you work towards resolving them. Remember, the first step to solving an issue is acknowledging it. This principle applies to emotional issues as well.
Manager Pro Tip: Aim to have a thick skin and soft heart while helping a direct report process their emotions, because some of their emotions will be directed towards you. And if you respond defensively or wounded, then the issue won’t get resolved and they will be less inclined to approach you down the road.
#3: Continue venting up: If you have vented to your manager repeatedly and no movement or action has been taken for a period of time, then continue venting up by asking that their manager be brought into the conversation to help resolve it. This should be a last resort. And hopefully you don’t have to use this tactic. But sometimes, for a range of reasons, it needs to be considered.
Employee Pro Tip: If you put into practice the second and third healthy practices, you will naturally avoid the fourth and fifth unhealthy practices.
#4: Don’t vent sideways: Venting to your manager is healthy. Venting to your coworkers is unhealthy. It creates a toxic workplace pretty quickly. So avoid looping coworkers into your work conflicts, even if they are your friends.
Coworker Pro Tip: If a coworker starts venting to you, the best thing to do is encourage them to express their concern to their manager. This might feel awkward doing the first time, especially if you’ve listened to venting in the past. But if you do it a first time, you usually don’t have to do it a second time.
#5: Never vent down: If venting sideways is unhealthy, then venting down is very unhealthy because of the influence you have over the staff, interns or volunteers that report to you.
#6: Protect your spouse: When I started working for a church almost 20 years ago, I asked a seasoned mentor how he maintained a healthy marriage over decades in ministry. He said he protected his spouse. He purposefully shielded his wife from the majority of problems at work. Because if he didn’t, it might have compromised her ability to grow at the church she attended: the church where he worked.
Organization Pro Tip: Don’t try to impose a zero-tolerance policy for spouses sharing. This is not realistic or healthy, and it won’t be followed. Instead it will cause unnecessary resentment in your employees towards an overly controlling organization.
In the end, it is best to point out the potholes when traveling down this road of venting with spouses, and then encourage your staff to navigate accordingly.
Spouse Pro Tip: If you and your spouse both work for the same organization, exercise additional caution because the ripple effects impact both of your jobs.
Sweeping emotions under the carpet is not healthy in our personal or professional lives, but neither is the opposite extreme of oversharing emotions.
Hopefully the above six guardrails help you, your team and your organization express themselves in a healthy manner.
If you’re looking for coaching on this topic beyond this article, then visit benstapley.com/coach to schedule a free consultation. I would love to help you determine the obstacles you’re facing and if I’m the best person to help you overcome them.
For more than 20 years, Ben Stapley has created and captured moving and memorable moments for individuals, non-profits & corporations across the globe.
He has served on the executive team of multiple megachurches and currently serves as the Executive Pastor at The Life Christian Church.
Ben also coaches individuals, consults for churches, and speaks at conferences about leadership, communication and creativity.