Everyone has complaints. I’m going to wager that no one has the perfect life so that’s why I’m confident with that statement. Most people like to vent about these complaints. And there are a variety of schools of thought on venting.
I love Cy Wakeman and she counsels against venting. We need/want to be more productive and allowing people to vent just feeds the fire against finding a constructive solution. There’s a lot of merit to this. Venting with others who are in the same boat may make you feel better temporarily but I’ve also been in these “meetings after the meeting” where you just get more and more worked up. And nothing the leadership does at that point would be good enough. It can be a lot healthier to look for solutions.
On the other hand, there can be something about an evening with friends, bitching about work over a beer, or two (or three). The purpose of these sessions isn’t necessarily about finding a solution, but maybe just to know you aren’t the only one who feels that way, is going through that situation or you aren’t the crazy one.
With the advent of social media, some of these bitch sessions that used to take place in a bar or home are now taking place over social media. And let’s be honest, it’s one of the reasons some HR professionals shy away from social media. We’ve all heard the counsel of not complaining about work/talking poorly about work on social media because if you do it for one, you’ll do it for others. And you won’t get a job if people think you will complain about them in public. Because we only hire the cheery, non-complaining folks right?
On it’s face, this is good advice, but to the people giving this advice, let’s think about this a little more. Why are we so scared of employees saying something bad about us on social media, but not putting that same effort/worry into fixing what they are complaining about? Not every complaint is unfounded.
I’ve heard this story a number of times and recently was reminded of it at DisruptHRBrookings when Nancy Walker shared it during her talk:
A young couple moved into a new neighborhood. The next morning while they were eating breakfast, the young woman saw her neighbor hanging the washing outside. “That laundry is not very clean; she doesn’t know how to wash correctly. Perhaps she needs better laundry soap.” Her husband looked on, remaining silent.
Every time her neighbour hung her washing out to dry, the young woman made the same comments. A month later, the woman was surprised to see a nice clean wash on the line and said to her husband, “Look, she’s finally learned how to wash correctly. I wonder who taught her this?” The husband replied, “I got up early this morning and cleaned our windows.”
Are you sure your windows are clean?