Kendall L. Stewart, M.D.
Why are leaders hesitant to do this?
Despite conclusive evidence that venting does not help, most leaders still believe it does. Angry leaders often believe it is their right—indeed their obligation—to express their feelings openly and vigorously without restraint. And they feel other leaders should encourage that! Some angry leaders will agree to vent their spleens privately. While this will diminish the emotional contagion and is an improvement, private venting does not help either. The truth is, angry people keep on venting because they feel like it. And it makes them (and others) feel even worse.
What is the case for doing it anyway?
You now know better. You understand that complaining repetitively and ruminating pointlessly is destructive to you and those in your neighborhood. You have observed that the servant leaders who are most successful in your organization don’t get angry often. When they do, they keep their mouths shut until their anger has died. That’s what happens to the fire of anger when you don’t feed it. It burns itself out quickly.
How can you do it?
- Just don’t do it. This is the flip side of the “Just Do It” mantra that advertisers have made a part of our motivational culture. You understand that there are some things that leaders just have to do—in spite of how they feel. And there are some things you must not do no matter how you feel. Ranting in the workplace is one of them.
- Review the evidence. Our brains are belief engines. People believe all kinds of stuff that is not true. The notion that venting helps diminish anger is one of them. Show your colleagues the evidence. Ask them to change this belief. Most people don’t change their beliefs easily—even false ones—but it’s a start.
- Clarify your expectations. Make it clear that you don’t expect to vent when you become angry and that you expect everyone to behave the same way. Admit that it is better to vent in private, but that it is best not to vent at all.
How have you decreased the angry ranting in your workplace?