“Can I just vent for a moment?”
We have all participated in this conversation in some form in our professional lives.
The words may be slightly different, but the transaction is the same.
Something or someone has upset you and you need to let off some steam.
Part of having a psychologically safe workplace is the freedom to express your thoughts, opinions, and issues without fear of censure but that also requires work on your part.
It is imperative that you do not turn venting into office gossip or just complaining.
How do you do that?
First, there must be a collective agreement in your culture that there is a huge difference between venting and gossip.
Healthy venting leads to productive conversations, feedback, solutions, and strengthening of relationships.
Gossip has malicious intent, incites speculation, is passive-aggressive, and tears down relationships.
It will negatively affect the productivity, undermine credibility, and create a toxic workplace.
Here at DX we have implemented several strategies to create an environment that fosters healthy venting.
First, we are a Feedback focused organization.
Up, down, lateral – we ask for Feedback.
We believe that issues should be addressed quickly within our team and the best way to identify those issues is to talk about them in a way that focuses on specific instances and behaviors.
This is a way to foster our relationships with each other, our clients, and our vendors.
1 to 1 Conversations
Second, we create a space for one on one conversations.
Weekly – I schedule time to talk with all our employees about their current projects, issues they may be facing, and a general check-in.
I make myself available to listen to the things that are top of mind.
When an issue comes up, my role is to keep them on task – which should be to solve the problem.
I can redirect the conversation if it veers into complaining or gossip territory.
With a weekly touch point I can also get a sense of larger issues and minimize the impact of stress on the team.
This is all about building relationships.
Finally, we have created a formal space to air our issues out together as a team.
A couple times a month we gather to have a vent session.
This is a timed meeting where everyone has a chance to bring up an ISSUE that is causing them stress.
This is specifically not about a person.
This is not the time for Feedback.
This is about process, problems, or circumstances that are causing grief.
As a team we can ask questions and dig for more information and the goal is to start drafting out a plan to address the issue.
This meeting is fantastic for providing clarity and helps the team have empathy for one another.
It's likely the issues presented may have never been shared before.
When we hear what is stressing someone out directly from them, we have a chance to strengthen the relationship.
This ongoing meeting is all about working towards solutions.
We don't solve our issues in these meetings, but we are given the opportunity to hear other perspectives and plan for a solution.
Once an issue is out in the open, it is so much easier to work together to solve.
At the end of the day, venting is a human behavior.
As long as your culture encourages the right behaviors (and discourages the bad ones) it can lead to ingenuity, productivity, and a free flow of information.
That level of clarity and empathy in relationships will lead to autonomy and equity within any organization.