The Importance of Venting at Work: A Guide to Safe Shit-Talk
Sometimes (a lot of times) you need to get stuff off your chest. And bitching with a coworker who gets it not only the most fun way to do that, but the most effective. A 20 minute rant about the injustices of your workplace environment will often leave you feeling lighter, validated, and ready to face the rest of the week and/or 30 years until you retire and die.
Here’s how you do it without getting fired.
1. Get It Out of Your System
Honestly, it IS bullshit that your boss doesn’t listen to your ideas. And yes, Carol definitely does talk down to you even though you’re both at the same level and she’s literally been at the company for 4 more weeks than you. Of course Ryan got promoted over you because his dad is friend’s with the VP. It’s not right and we should riot in the town square.
It’s perfectly reasonable to get this off your chest, even if you don’t specifically want to solve the problems you’re complaining about in the moment.
What other choice do you have? Keep it all buried inside until it comes out one happy hour when you’re drunk and you make a fool of yourself? Stew in your resentment for months without addressing it? Create an elaborate ruse to take down your entire company and possibly industry just to address a few minor slights accumulated over 2 years at your corporation?
However, you need to make sure you’re being smart about how you do your venting. Which is why you need to ….
2. Be Careful of Technology
Messaging apps like Slack and Microsoft Teams are great tools for quick communication, file sharing, scheduling, and most importantly, shit-talking your annoying coworkers. However, I have learned the hard way on multiple occasions that Slack is not as private as you’d think. Like many people, I simply did not think about the fact that THESE ARE PUBLIC RECORDS THAT CAN COME BACK TO BITE YOU. Why I never realized that is a mystery scientists are still trying to solve today.
Here are a few tips for staying safe when you’re talking shit on Slack (also applies to Microsoft Teams, but I’ve really only used Slack in the past 5 years.)
If you’re making a group, MAKE IT PRIVATE.
When you create a group on Slack, it automatically is created as a public group which means that if someone searches their names in your company workspace and if you’ve mentioned them in that channel, they can read everything you’ve said, even if they’re not in the group.
I know this because this exact situation happened to me and it created an awkward situation that didn’t need to exist. Make your groups private people and save yourself down the road.
Avoid using real names.
I know you think that the company has too much going on to read through your Slacks, but guess what? They don’t! There are multiple stories of high level companies firing people who criticized employees over Slack, including at Netflix and Away.
Should you be fired for something like this? Probably not (unless you were saying some real vile shit) but at the end of the day, it’s not worth losing your job over.
Close your Slack when you are sharing your screen
There’s truly no benefit to having it up in the first place when you’re sharing your screen, plus the negatives are life-altering.
1- someone can message you while you’re presenting.
First off, the sound annoying and a distraction while you’re trying to talk. But more importantly, if you’re foolish enough to keep message previews on, everyone on the call can see what someone Slacks you. Your dumbass coworker who
2- You can accidentally have a conversation open that you don’t want people reading.
3. Pick Your People and Your Places
Hopefully this goes without saying, but you need to be selective about who you vent to. You can’t just go around slinging insults willy-nilly and expect to not get some heat for it. Feel out your coworkers and try to find like-minded people.
Sidenote – this is one of the worst parts about starting a new job, especially remote. Finding a good shit talk crew is hard but should be at the top of your to-do list.
Just as important as WHO you vent to is WHERE you do it. We’ve already discussed some of the dangers of technology, which leaves a few options.
1- Call or Zoom
Nothing more fun than getting a Slack that says – hey call me real quick. Don’t want to put this on Slack. Pick that shit up ASAP.
2- Find Your Happy Place
One of the only joys of the return to in-person work is doing your venting face to face. Here are some quick options for where you can take your 20 minute break, and let it all out.
Go get coffee or lunch
Pros: You get out of the office with a natural excuse. You (probably) won’t run into anyone and can speak freely.
Cons: You end up accidentally spending like $21 on cold brew and a croissant.
By the coffee maker
Pros: Convenient, natural, free coffee.
Cons: Incredibly obvious and extremely awkward when the person you’re talking about walks by and you immediately stop whispering to each other.
Booking a conference room to talk shit
Pros: Can speak freely (assuming the room is relatively sound proof) and you don’t have to do your actual job.
Cons: If you and your work buddy aren’t on the same team or do this too frequently, people will start to question why you are constantly booking off the good conference room for 45 minutes a day and clearly cackling in laughter the entire time.
4. Don’t Make it Personal or Take it Personally
I don’t care who you are, at some point in your career, someone will have an issue with how you do things at work. And if you’re in any sort of management or decision making position, it will only get worse. In exchange for getting slightly more pay, you’ll now get the privilege of having everyone below you question your decisions and talk about you behind your back. Fun stuff.
Honestly, it’s annoying, but that’s the game. Venting is a natural part of any organization and when you’re at the top or even the middle, you’ll become a target of complaints no matter what you do. As much as you can encourage a culture of transparency and honest feedback, the fact of the matter is that most employees aren’t comfortable opening criticizing their boss to his or her face. And you can’t address every single issue people have, because guess what- some people just like to complain! (I”m one of them.) As a leader, these are all things you need to learn to live with and accept that as part of life.
On the flip side, when you are the one venting or complaining, try to keep things in the professional realm. There’s no need to make something personal. Sure, Mike is way too hands on and doesn’t get out of your way to let you do your actual job. But you don’t need to say ‘it’s probably because he has no control at his home since his wife and kids all despise the very ground that he walks on and he’ll most likely die from a heart attack if he doesn’t get his weight under control.” That’s not that nice.
Let’s be a bigger person and just keep our complaints to the 9-5 realm shall we? We’re dealing with actual human beings it’s not a crime to be bad at your job all right? You wouldn’t want someone saying that about you when you finally ascend to the coveted position of Senior Assistant Director to the VP one day right?
5. Know When to Stop
Look, shit-talking is very fun and a way to bond with your coworkers. At the end of the day though, you need to pick and choose your spots. Constant complaining will just put you in a negative headspace and horrible mood throughout your day. Maybe instead of bitching about a ‘toxic workspace’ you should stop creating one? EVER THINK ABOUT THAT??????