Venting: Releasing Emotion

It’s an amazing word.  Geologically, it refers to molten rock being expelled from the earth. This is usually a result of pressure being built up deep beneath the earth’s crust and being forced upwards. Prior to a vent opening, there might be a bulging of the earth underneath it, a bit like a large pimple - the kind that hurt like mad and make your face look like you’ve been stung by a wasp.

But there’s another definition for venting, and one that’s important for a young manager to think about. It is not uncommon for us to bottle up our emotions at work, however, we can’t keep our emotions in forever.  

There are advantages and disadvantages to venting. Assuming it’s purpose is to relieve pressure, then I am a fan. If, however, venting becomes a constant state, then it’s not likely to be creating a constructive dynamic.

When I’m a member of the team I can vent to anyone.  At the end of the day, constant venting will only have a primary effect on me - I become known as a moaner. However what happens when you get into management? It’s no longer okay to vent to the people who were your peers, and venting to your boss can have severe consequences on your career.

So where do you vent?

Recently I realised one major issue is whether or not you know what you’re looking for when it comes to needing to vent.  Often we turn to loved ones and friends when we need to vent. The venting is perceived as pain and our loved ones often wish to solve this problem for us.

Here’s where the disconnect occurs.  Often when we’re venting we’re not looking for advice or for someone to fix our problem.  We’re doing what a vent does - relieving pressure.  We’re releasing our emotional pressure, so when someone gives us unsolicited or unwanted advice we get even more frustrated.

What we’re really looking for is someone to listen.  To hear us out and to empathise with us for the hurt we feel. In situations where we need to vent I find we often have the answers ourselves. However our emotions are often clouding our vision so the solution is harder to find.  The venting process allows us to release the emotional constipation we are feeling and allows ideas to flow again.

If you’re a manager and you understand this feeling where do you get your outlet?

A partner can be helpful but is rarely a long-term solution.  As are other loved ones and close friends.  So where do you turn?

1. Peer groups: Within the organisation can be one answer. Other people at the same level who you can trust and who can help you productively think through your challenges.

2. Designated mentors: Internal or external individuals who are helping you through your career.  Try to ensure they know they are a mentor, so they can better formulate their role in this process.  Most mentors are there to listen and share some of their experiences that are similar

3. A coach: Coaches are there to listen.  Their primary role has nothing to do with giving advice.  It’s to hear you, empathise with you and to challenge you.

If you are changing your role – moving to a new organisation; taking a promotion; or thinking about a major change you should also carefully consider whether or not you have a support network in place that can help you with the transition. A support network is rarely a single family member, it needs to be more robust than that. If you’re making a major step, be prepared and get support, as many managers fail because they have not been properly supported.