27 Things I’d Like to Tell My Co-workers

I get letters! People love to share their opinions, insights and frustrations. And as long as I don’t name names, they give me permission to pass along most of their comments. Recently, I wrote about 27 things I’d like to tell my manager. Now, here’s what some of you say you’d like to tell your co-workers:

27 Things I'd Like to Tell My Co-workers

  1. Back away from the perfume bottle! This isn’t date night. Some of us are allergic and what seems “light” to you makes the rest of us gag.
  2. I’d like to help you because it seems you’re having a difficult time. But you won’t let anyone in. You don’t have to do this all by yourself, you know.
  3. We’re all in this together. It’s not a competition. I’m not out to get you or make you look bad in front of the boss.
  4. When I screw up, would you please come to me first rather than make it a topic of conversation in the break room?
  5. Kudos to the person who holds down the fort when everyone else goes out to lunch or to a conference.
  6. You might think an office flirtation is pretty exciting. But we all know you’re married. It impacts your reputation and can come back to bite you.
  7. I’m nervous about bringing up ideas in our meeting. Would someone support me vs. immediately shoot me down?
  8. Give the new boss a break. Give them time to get their bearings, learn who’s who and figure out how things work around here before we pass judgment.
  9. I want you to show up on time, do your job and quit bellyaching.
  10. At our next meeting, let’s thank someone in the room who helped us out that week.
  11. On the first day of my new job, would someone invite me to join them for lunch? It would help me feel like I fit in.
  12. How about if we all chip in to buy creamer and salad dressing rather than take it from someone else’s stash?
  13. I “loved” it when you took my picture down off the wall to make room for your latest award plaque.
  14. The microwave is a disgrace. Please cover your food when you cook it and wipe up the spills. Nobody wants to clean up after you.
  15. You have no idea how you brightened my day by poking your happy face in the door. You’re a breath of fresh air!
  16. I get that you’re a “hugger” but some of us freak out when we see you coming. Please give us some space.
  17. That time you covered for me when my kid was sick – I can’t tell you how much I appreciated it.
  18. Why is it we all get along ‘til it’s time to leave the parking lot?
  19. We need to lighten up around here. This is not national defense.
  20. Not cool to adjust your pants and parts in public.
  21. I accepted a job here because you worked here first. I’m glad I trusted your taste in employers.
  22. We don’t want to hear details about your latest operation or see pictures. Some of us have sensitive stomachs.
  23. I’ve learned more about how to handle disappointment and stress because of the way you manage yourself. You have no idea how much I admire your strength.
  24. Some of us are on the phone with customers. Please be considerate and use your “inside voice.”
  25. Momma always said, “You get more bees with honey than vinegar!”
  26. You’re one of the kindest people I know.
  27. Please pull up your pants and put on your shoes.

Got any others you’d like to add to the list? Send me a note. I promise to keep it anonymous!

How to Cope with Critical Co-workers

Got a critical co-worker in your life? Ever wonder what planet they came from? It’s possible they have been that way all their lives and you are just the latest casualty. I’m sure it’s not because you are overly sensitive. (Truly!)

[Read more…]

How to Save a Relationship and Get Engagement at Work or at Home

Got a person you’re struggling with? Want a simple method for better communication? Snickers, my cat, taught me the key to salvage a relationship, whether at work or at home. This one thing she does will help you build engagement with colleagues, co-workers, customers, constituents and loved ones.

Relationships tips and communication skills

Here’s what she does: As soon as she sees my son head for the stairs to our basement, Snickers runs over and sticks her paw through the railing. When her paw appears, Brett reaches through to scratch her head and pet her back. Then she flops on her side and rolls around to get her belly rubbed. (You may want to skip the belly-rubbing with some people.)

It’s now a game. She initiates it, Brett responds and she wiggles around in delight. The more they engage in this ritual, the more my son expects it and actually gets quite a kick out of it. She makes a “bid” for his attention and he falls for it every time. I don’t know how she’d cope if one day he didn’t respond.


“Bids” for attention can strengthen relationships when they result in a positive response. When we say something to another person, place a phone call, send a text, email or letter, we usually want a reply. It sets up a give-and-take exchange that meets our social needs for human connection and validation.

Just like Snickers, we all want our bellies rubbed (figuratively speaking of course). It fires up those endorphins, builds trust and leads to relationship retention. Some people want more of it than others. Some are downright needy and tire people out. But most of us have a set point based on reasonable expectations.

interpersonal communication

Basically, people want recognition. That doesn’t mean they are fishing for compliments or a plaque on the wall. They want to know that somebody “sees” them – that they matter. And the more we respond to those bids, the better results we get in terms of acceptance, cooperation and engagement. Socially astute people learn how to fulfill this human need and as a result, win friends and become a welcome addition to the neighborhood BBQ.

Those who ignore someone’s “bid” may discourage the other person from making an effort in the future. They could interpret the lack of response as apathy or flat out rejection. The more often this occurs, the less likely the relationship will survive.


People are people and human behavior is pretty predictable, whether you’re dealing with someone at work or at home. Studies of successful marriages have found that couples who divorced six years later had responded to bids only 33% of the time, while those who stayed married had positively responded to bids 86% of the time.

The more often we engage, the stronger our relationships. And the stronger those social connections become, the longer we live, as described in The Longevity Project by Howard S. Friedman, Ph.D and Leslie R. Martin, Ph.D. This eight-decade study tracked the loves and lives of 1500 Americans from childhood to death.

The way in which we respond is also important. Delivering lukewarm, unenthusiastic comments can kill a relationship about as quickly as no response at all. Read about the four styles of responding to others in this article.

Reciprocity rules! Positive responses build good feelings and encourage people to open up and offer more of themselves. And reciprocity is one of the seven laws Dr. Robert Cialdini explores in his book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. Positive responses show you are enthusiastic, interested, supportive and encouraging. It sets up a chain reaction that moves us to higher ground together.


So often I hear people say they have communication problems within their organization, which usually leads to morale problems. Chances are, it’s because some folks don’t realize how important it is to let others in on the backstory. Maybe they don’t believe there’s a strong enough “need to know.” But as Simon Sinek explains in his TED talk on the Golden Circle, understanding the “why” is crucial to better leadership and also better branding.

To improve your organizational or personal brand in the eyes of others, explain yourself now and then. Don’t let people guess. Don’t force them to make up their own story about your motivations, otherwise you may not come out on the better side of that story. Once people understand the “why” behind your motivation, they tend to be more tolerant and cooperative. But keeping it to yourself can be perceived as arrogant and unfeeling. No wonder morale problems occur!


Relationship Cure by Dr. John Gottman

Dr. John Gottman, author of The Relationship Cure: A 5 Step Guide to Strengthening Your Marriage, Family and Friendships, is an expert in predicting which couples are prone to divorce. After studying thousands of couples, he identified four things that doom relationships. I’m willing to bet these four behaviors may also have a bearing on how successful we are with people at work as well as those we live with. They are:

Criticism: when someone says their partner’s personality or character as the problem. (Based on Gottman’s research, this is something women tend to do more than men.) Before we open our mouth, consider whether the thing we’re about to say is based on a minor irritation or is it something more serious. Is it worth the cost of damaging the relationship to voice this concern? Will the world stop or somebody die if the behavior continues? I’ve written about a way to raise an issue using a non-critical approach here.

Defensiveness: counterattacking, whining or responding like a victim. When we’re attacked or criticized, instincts kick in and we try to protect and defend ourselves. But the more we protest, the more likely we are to: 1. not hear what the other person is saying, 2. not learn how to do things better in the future and 3. reject the other person’s opinion which can undermine the relationship. It’s hard to stay objective under these circumstances and it takes practice. Sometimes a simple, “Thank you for the information. Can I get back to you on this?” is all that’s needed.

Contempt: acting like you’re a better person than they are. (This is the #1 predictor of breakups.) This can also occur as we talk about the other person to a third party. Acting morally superior is usually a telltale sign.

Stonewalling: shutting down or tuning out. It implies “I don’t care.” (85% of the time it’s the men who do this.) There’s very little belly-rubbing going on here. Closing the door to interaction can make things worse. While sometimes tuning out is a way to avoid saying or doing something you’ll regret, neglect is a dangerous place to go. Stonewalling can also be a passive-aggressive way to get back at the other person.


Respond in positive ways to the bids for attention you get from colleagues, co-workers, customers, spouse or family members to strengthen relationships. Research studies also prove that if you avoid the four deadly behaviors of contempt, defensiveness, criticism and stonewalling, your marriage (and likely other connections) will last longer. Don’t default to a position of neglect or apathy. Put in a little consistent effort if you want the people in your life to stick around. Err on the side of communicating too much.

Next Steps: Know of someone who’s at risk of ruining a relationship at home or at work? Help them out and forward this article.

How to Handle Obnoxious People in Power

A reader recently asked if I would write an article about how to handle obnoxious people in power. So, to start, I wanted to find out what we mean when we call someone obnoxious. Is it a person who throws their weight around? Do they try to “one up” others? Are they arrogant or inconsiderate? (All the way from Colorado Springs, I can see your heads nodding now – yes, yes and yes.)

How to Deal with Obnoxious People in Power by Laura Benjamin

(Photo credit: Eric Schickler Photography)

Webster’s definition is this: behavior that is annoying or objectionable due to being a showoff or attracting undue attention to oneself.

I figured there may be more to it than that, so I asked the stylists in my hairdresser’s shop today. They see tons of people and have a common sense perspective on human behavior. (Of course, I’m a little ray of sunshine and a breath of fresh air when I walk in there, but others, maybe not so much.)

They said, “People who talk too loud. It seems like they want everyone to hear what they’re saying and it makes it hard for us to have conversations with our clients.”

That got me started. So I came up with my own list of obnoxious behaviors, but it’s not exhaustive, so feel free to add your “favorites” in the comments at the bottom of this page.


People who…

    1. engage in the “cell yell” where they talk so loud on their phone that everyone around them gets to hear all the gory details of their conversation
    2. tell you they’re open for a meeting anytime in the coming week and then every date/time you offer won’t work for them
    3. don’t say thank you when you hold a door open for them
    4. take forever to order at a fast food place because they’re calculating how many pennies they’ll save from ordering a la carte versus getting the meal deal
    5. consistently say “maybe” when you ask if they’d like to do something or go somewhere and don’t offer any alternative to your suggestion
    6. squeeze into the revolving door space you’re in with their luggage rather than wait for the next opening
    7. splash water all over the restroom counter and don’t wipe it up so your shirt gets wet when you stand at the sink and have no place to put your purse down
    8. won’t move forward in line (either standing or in their car) and let a large gap exist when there are many people standing behind them – there’s something about seeing forward momentum that makes people happy
    9. throw trash out their car window
    10. pull out a million coupons at the grocery store (It’s always when you have ice cream in your cart)
    11. blast the bass through their car speakers so you can feel your heart vibrate
    12. wander onto the shoulder of the road and spit gravel into your windshield so it cracks
    13. drive slower than traffic in the passing lane when they should (and could) move over
    14. ignore the sign to merge two lanes into one, pass everyone who did merge and then expect someone to let them in at the last minute
    15. pull into the campground at 1am and make tons of noise setting up
    16. wait to complain about a meal until the last bite, then expect their dinner to be free
    17. ride bicycles side by side on a two lane road with no shoulder and heavy traffic
    18. consistently keep people waiting because their time is much more important than yours
    19. take your parking spot when you have your blinker on – here’s a classic scene of revenge in a video clip from the movie, Fried Green Tomatoes

Bet you’re wondering how I could come up with so many reasons to get bent out of shape. Okay, I’ll simmer down, but I think we should call ‘em as we see ‘em and get clear on what disrespectful behaviors cause us the most frustration. We should also try to understand the reasons why obnoxious people do the things they do.

Our ultimate freedom is the right and power to decide how anybody or anything outside ourselves will affect us. ~Stephen Covey


People who are obnoxious often want to have power or influence over others. It can come from a deep-seated sense of insecurity. Maybe they grew up with few choices, were bullied or abused. So these behaviors are their way to get control over their life. They could also be people who…

  1. never learned how to show confidence and mistakenly feel that over-the-top assertiveness illustrates competence and self-worth
  2. are impulsive about most things and don’t realize their impulsivity may be interpreted as selfishness
  3. have been rejected, disappointed, overlooked or underestimated in the past and vow not to let it happen again
  4. find that bravado, a big show, flash, glitz and aggressiveness are often admired by others. They’ve seen people get rewarded for it and use that approach as their default.
  5. may have a physiological issue that impacts social skills. While most of us are not qualified to diagnose anyone’s medial condition, we should be aware that some behaviors are a result of genes or trauma. Through no fault of their own, they wage a daily battle to regain control over themselves. You may happen to be collateral damage.
  6. want to cause you harm – no bones about it, they ARE out to get you. You could have done or said something to provoke them or you look like a coach or teacher who wasn’t kind.

“I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.”  ~Mahatma Gandhi


It’s hard enough to deal with these behaviors, but when the person has power over us, it makes it doubly difficult to cope. They may control your paycheck or the quality of a product or project where your reputation is on the line. They may be a relative. No matter who they are, you need survival skills before you do or say something destructive. So take one or more of these action steps to cope and hopefully turn things around:

1. Ask for their advice. It can take them by surprise because most people will push them away, ignore them or retaliate. This approach may require all the self-control you can muster, but it can pay off big time when they realize you’re not a threat and they’ve not gotten under your skin. Instead of an adversary, they may start to see you as an ally. Here’s a great book by Bob Burg on how to turn adversaries into allies. 

2. Say, “I’m sure you didn’t mean to be X (hurtful, disrespectful, dismissive, etc.) when you said/did X.” Danger: don’t follow up that phrase with the word “but” because it’ll put them on the defensive. Your goal is to let them know the impact of what they’ve said or done while giving them the benefit of the doubt regarding their intent. By saying you understand they couldn’t have possibly meant their words or actions to have that affect, you’re letting them save face.

3. Say, “It would help me out a lot if you’d do/say X next time. That way I’ll be able to do Y.” By stating the preferable actions, words and behaviors you’d like to see and saying why it’s important, you give them a constructive approach to get better outcomes. Too often we know we don’t like what someone is saying or doing, but we we fail to be specific about better behaviors. And that leaves people knowing they did something wrong but without an example of what to do differently.


We’ve looked at examples of obnoxious behavior, reasons why people may do the things they do, and respectful strategies you can use with anyone, especially people in power. You can be assertive in a non-threatening way. And more importantly, you don’t have to ignore something that’s keeping you up at night. When we feel some control over circumstances, it can reduce our stress levels and improve our personal performance.


Stop Saying That’s Just the Way I Am

How to Recover When You Say Something Stupid

Does Your Difficult Boss Need a Jerk-o-Meter?

How to Stop Them From Saying That’s Just the Way I Am

Once upon a time there was an organization that held team conference calls. Each week the company owner would guide the group through key issues then ask for feedback. Without fail, one guy would pipe up with a comment that was disrespectful and targeted at the owner.

Interpersonal Communication Skills

It was embarrassing for everyone. But the boss never called him on it, either publicly or afterwards privately.

Not too far down the road was another organization. They were suffering with a woman who rampaged around the office like Godzilla. Everyone, including HR and her frontline manager was afraid of her. Nobody wanted to cross her for fear of her wrath and repercussions.

So, here’s what they both did. They called in a trainer to hold a class on courtesy and communication. (I wonder who that was.) Better to have the outside stranger lower the boom than those who worked closely with these folks.

After all, “That’s just the way he/she is.”

These stressed-out people were hoping the message would deliver a wake-up call to that one person who was driving everyone crazy. They’d sit through the class, nod knowingly and stare pointedly at the offender hoping he or she would “get it”. That way nobody would have to put up with their nonsense ever again and they wouldn’t have to personally put their life on the line.

Poof, the magic fix!

While situations like this tend to keep me in business, it’s not the most effective use of everyone’s time or energy. If you want things to change, co-workers as well as the boss need to take action. Merely modeling good behavior with one another may not be enough for this person to notice how inappropriate and destructive they are. But it’s a good start.

You can also try to:

Be a leader. Everyone is waiting around for the manager, owner, boss to take control of the situation. Don’t be a chicken. Don’t leave it up to someone else. People look up to you ‘cause you’re supposed to be in charge.

Create a workplace of respect. Here’s an acronym I made up to help get people focused on their behaviors.

R – regular reminders of standards and norms

E – effort to create constructive outcomes

S – speak to the person directly

P – personally responsible for our words and actions

E – empathy to understand how we impact one another

C – commitment to right any wrongs

T – timely action, privately when possible

Put them on a performance plan. Yes, you can do this for personal traits that seem hard to quantify. Hold them accountable to behaviors that fall under communication, leadership, internal/external customer service, teamwork. Give them a reasonable period of time to improve. Get them a book. Hire a coach. Be a mentor.

Congratulate them. They won’t go from 0 to 100 overnight, but make an effort to notice the small ways they get better. Do they listen to you? Will they acknowledge they might be impacting others? Are they willing to try and improve? Do they catch themselves “in the act” and adjust more quickly than before? Will they apologize? Can they be responsible for themselves in a self-deprecating way? If so, notice and acknowledge.

Banish the phrase, “That’s just how they are.” If you allow people to run amok and let them off the hook, things won’t improve and they could get worse. Then you might just blow a gasket when the behavior becomes too much to bear.

And finally, peer pressure is a wonderful thing. Culture is the way we do things around here. Create a culture of caring and sometimes these folks self-select themselves right out the door!

Additional Reading:

How to Have That Difficult Discussion

Why Your Biggest Embarrassment Makes You More of a Leader

How to Recover When You Say Something Stupid

I hate to admit this since I specialize in interpersonal communication, but I’ve been known to say something stupid once in a while. It doesn’t happen often (that I know of) but when it does, I feel dumb and embarrassed. How about you?

communication skills with Laura Benjamin

Have you ever said something you regretted? Wish you could get a “do over”? Better yet, want some ways to avoid it in the first place or recover with your self-respect intact?

There you are out in public, at a party, a workplace event, with a client, customer or co-worker. Maybe you’re trying to be light-hearted or humorous. Perhaps you want to be helpful but it comes out all wrong.

I once innocently called out to someone heading for a public restroom and said, “Sir! Sir! That’s the ladies room!” Then SHE turned around and with a look that could kill said, “I beg your pardon!” It was a bit awkward.

That experience (and a few others) taught me to do the following:


Count to 10. That brief pause will give your brain time to catch up with your mouth and give you the chance to get more information or reconsider what you were about to say.

Let someone else go first. If you’re in a group, resist the temptation to comment before anyone else does. You don’t win a prize for taking the lead in every conversation. (Exception: when something dangerous is about to occur.)

Imagine your image. Consider the type of person you want to portray. Do you want to be perceived as:

  • Angry (Alec Baldwin)
  • Sarcastic (Dr. Gregory House – Hugh Laurie)
  • Wise (Yoda)
  • Intimidating (Darth Vader)
  • or comical…

Darth Vaders Bride

Notice when you’re nervous. I think our potential to make a mistake with our mouth increases if we’re upset or nervous. Rate your nervous level on a scale from 1-10 and then decide whether you trust yourself to sound kind, credible, respectful, intelligent at that point in time.

Ask yourself, what’s at risk? Could you lose a job, piece of business, sponsorship or risk a relationship? How would you feel if your words showed up in the newspaper or featured on the 5 o’clock news? Then ask yourself, what’s the reward? What benefit will be gained?


Apologize. As soon as you realize how your words could have been misinterpreted or the impact you had on someone, say you’re sorry. Most people will overlook a lot if they feel you are sincerely apologetic. Even if a few days have passed, it’s never too late to make amends.

Mention your motivation. There’s nothing wrong with explaining where you were coming from by saying, “I hope you know I was trying to be ____________ (light-hearted, sympathetic, humorous, witty, etc.) when I said XYZ.” Sometimes describing your intent, even though it went horribly wrong, will help people cut you some slack.

Ask a question. As quickly as possible after becoming aware of your gaffe, ask “Did what I just say sound stupid, insensitive or rude?” Then you can follow up by saying, “I really was trying to ______________” and explain yourself. Make sure you are accountable for what you said.


I don’t want to imply we should avoid being truthful, transparent or courageous in our communication. Important issues need to be raised. People must be held accountable. Wrongs should be set right. Nobody benefits when we’re too fearful to say what needs to be said. But there’s also a responsibility to consider how we come across. We can still be persuasive, powerful and influential while being sensitive to words and timing.

The mark of a true professional and a self-aware person often requires we balance two competing goals or conflicting concepts to get a constructive outcome.

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” ~F. Scott Fitzgerald

And finally, don’t beat yourself up if you say something stupid. We have ALL been there. Make your amends and then move on. Don’t belabor it. There’s no need to grovel. Just consider this another important lesson learned on the way to becoming a fully enlightened human being!


15 Reasons Why Venting is Bad

You Have Every Right Not to Talk to Them

Does Your Difficult or Abusive Boss Need a Jerk-O-Meter?

Does your boss hate you, or are they a jerk to everyone? Here’s how to tell. When they’re not watching, test their overall jerk factor with a handy-dandy “Jerk-O-Meter”.

dealing with a jerk or a difficult boss

“The MIT Jerk-O-Meter attaches to your phone and uses electronic speech analysis to provide instant feedback to the person speaking on factors like stress, empathy and overall jerk factor. Studies evaluated how a person’s speaking style could reflect his or her interest in a conversation, when going out on a date or perhaps in buying a product. Results show that a person’s speaking style and tone of voice can predict objective outcomes with 75-85% accuracy.” (invented by Anmol Madan and colleagues at MIT Media Lab)

Think I’m exaggerating? One reader said this (and I paraphrase):

“I don’t know how to approach him because frankly, I’m afraid of him. He’s yelled at me and treats me like every day is my last on the job. I really think he hates me. And since he’s technically not breaking any policies, HR says there’s not much they can do. I’m trying to get up the courage to talk to him about this, but I’m really nervous. Can you help?”

Well, it appears you’ve got yourself a prime candidate for the “Boss Behaving Badly” Award. Unfortunately, few companies have rules against being a jerk, although he could earn himself a poor evaluation on communication skills and leadership competencies.

You may be given a cactus, but you don’t have to sit on it. –Anonymous

Thankfully, there’s plenty you can do to improve your situation. Use one or more of the below strategies:

Have the talk: Calmly explain why you don’t deserve bad treatment. Say, “When you do/say X, I feel Y (disengaged, discouraged, frustrated, upset, nervous) Then say, “I’m asking if you would treat me with like respect.”

Lean into it: Ask if they have concerns about your performance. Objectively consider this possibility. State your intent to improve things, then do your best to fix those issues.

Reframe: change how you see things. After the wildfire, our insurance adjuster would use the phrase, “If not for the fire…” to clarify why they’d make payments on certain expenses but not for others. It’s possible one day you could say, “If not for that boss, I wouldn’t have the great job I have now…wouldn’t have learned how NOT to manage people…wouldn’t have learned how to get along with people high on the Jerk-O-Meter scale!”

Make yourself indispensable: Anticipate their needs, respond more quickly, smile more often (go on, force yourself), work it, work it, work it! 

Limit your exposure: ‘Nuff said.

Find positive people: spend time with people who are optimistic, results-oriented and successful. This mindset can rub off on you and provide a buffer against the boss’s negative emotions.

De-escalate: In the customer service world, we learned to lower our voice a notch when facing an upset person. Stay calm. Respond with respect. Don’t give in to the emotion.

Don’t take it personally: Your boss could have a health condition, trouble at home, or be unsure of their own job security. Avoid making assumptions it’s only you.

Look for a new job: Put yourself in the driver’s seat so you feel a greater sense of control. This often works wonders on our psyche.

Gird your loins and wait it out: It’s possible they may be on their way out for one reason or another. (A friend of mine was once told, “Change happens around here one retirement at a time.”)

Then let me know how it goes. I promise to keep it confidential, but would like to anonymously share your results with the rest of our readers.

Oh, and before we go, here’s a message to the Boss:

Making people afraid of you is not a sound leadership strategy. People shouldn’t feel like they’re walking on eggshells around you. Your job is to earn respect, not fear. If this is all about a performance issue, then address it. Be clear with your expectations, be objective, and most of all be fair.

A few reading recommendations for the Boss:

  • It’s Your Ship, by Capt. D. Michael Abrashoff
  • Carrots and Sticks Don’t Work: Build a Culture of Employee Engagement with the Principles of RESPECT by Paul L. Marciano
  • The No A-hole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One that Isn’t, by Robert I. Sutton, PhD. (if you can get past the crude term, it’s a terrific book)

Thanks to everyone for writing in. Keep those questions coming!


15 Reasons Why Venting is a Bad Idea

4 Ways to Deal with a Difficult Boss

One Amazing Leadership Example

15 Reasons Why Venting is a Bad Idea

Admit it. Haven’t you ever let loose with a rousing rant? Didn’t it feel good to get all those pent-up frustrations out on the table? Who hasn’t indulged at some point? I know I have. But there are many reasons why venting, especially at work, is a bad idea.


People usually justify it by saying:

  • “You’ve gotta be able to vent. It’s stressful to keep it bottled up inside.”
  • “If you don’t vent, all that pent up frustration comes out in other ways.”
  • “I’m very careful who I vent to. There are only a few people I do it with.”
  • “Once I get it all out, I can move on.”
  • “I need to know someone else is on my side.”
  • “I have very good reasons. You’d vent too if you were in my situation.”
  • “I come from a very expressive family. We all do it.”
  • “It’s part of our culture.”

Studies show that venting is like jumping on an emotional hamster wheel. It creates a habit we default to time after time. It lowers our trigger point.

There’s a difference between venting and asking someone for advice or unloading to your therapist. Asking for advice means you are solution-focused and invested in making things better. Venting often implies you feel morally superior.

15 other reasons why it’s a bad idea include:

  1. It drags other people down
  2. It can frighten others or trigger their own emotional outburst
  3. Your personal image, credibility and reputation suffers
  4. You don’t learn self-management skills (control, patience)
  5. It distracts you from finding solutions to problems
  6. It implies (especially to employees or young ‘uns) this is acceptable behavior
  7. It proves that others succeeded in pushing your buttons
  8. It may cause someone to end a relationship, avoid you and screen your calls
  9. People feel like they’re walking on eggshells around you
  10. It could lose you a promotion, a job or a piece of business
  11. You don’t learn how to soothe yourself under stressful conditions
  12. It can keep you stuck in a constant state of negativity
  13. Your mental health could suffer
  14. It saps your energy
  15. It blocks you from seeing the good things happening around you

So how can we stop it? Here are two ideas:

1. Challenge ourselves to go 48 hours, or one week, without venting. This will give us a taste of what self-control feels like and teach us how to focus on positive solutions.

2. Ask others who make venting a habit, “How do you want this to end? What are three things you’re going to do to resolve it?” This will disrupt the cycle of negativity and help them focus on working towards constructive results.

I believe most of us try hard every day to be a better person. No one is perfect – certainly not me! So the more self-awareness we can develop, the better. The less often we will second-guess ourselves. We also won’t have to apologize for our words or actions quite so much. And it can build self-confidence. When you feel like you can manage the ups and downs without falling to pieces or indulging in out-of-control behaviors, life will look a whole lot brighter!

Do you know someone who struggles with venting? Feel free to recommend this article or share on your favorite social media site.

Q: What do you think? Are there times when venting is necessary? How would you suggest people handle this habit? Please share in the comments section.

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