Yes, Misery Loves Your Company
Misery. If you’ve ever worked, you’re familiar with the feeling. Whether it’s the drama of the everyday, the anger that comes with work times and timing, or frustration related to personnel decisions, every company, every brand, and every team is always flirting with misery. None of us are immune, and we all know the feeling when stuff hits the fan. Moments of misery in business are as old as business itself, but the outlet for those feelings has drastically changed, and that is where the newish danger of misery lives: publicizing it. Our knee-jerk relationship with social media means that we are all mere seconds away from inviting others to be voyeurs to our misery, making transparent and permanent what, in many cases, should be private and temporary. Why is this dangerous?
Social thrives on the edges
For the most part, our social feeds are filled with extremes. Sure, there are still those who publicize everything everywhere, but extremism is the new black in social. We post our cutest pictures, our amazing moments, our sadness, and our grievances. We post links to articles or sites that amaze or inspire, or that are so unbelievably off the mark that we struggle with the most over-the-top hashtags. Such is our day-to-day relationship with our digital circles.
And yes, this extends to our work lives, too. I am delighted (and sometimes amazed) when I read posts about how much someone loves their job. But more often than not, workday posts are colored with “I can’t believe this meeting hasn’t started yet” (or conversely, hasn’t ended yet), “My boss is such a…”, or the more cryptic “This place…..aaaarrrrgh!” Such posts may seem innocuous, maybe even therapeutic, in the moment; however, unless you resolve your post once you personally come up for air, you run the risk of your misery being forever etched in the stone of your personal social outpost. And that forever is a mighty long time and can have consequences long beyond your bad day.
My guess is that your job doesn’t always suck; if it does, that’s a whole different issue. Assuming, however, that your misery is temporary, it’s true that talking out your frustration can be a positive way of diffusing the storm. We all do it, we have always done it, but generally having these conversations with those actually familiar with the situation makes the most sense. Living, as we do, in our social-first world has increasingly complicated our therapy. Now, when management makes decisions that you do not agree with, or when surprises occur at work that are less-than-ideal, you do not only have the option of taking a walk or a meeting with your colleagues familiar with the situation, you also have the alternative of alerting your peer network to the news, colored of course with your opinion (which may or may not be well-informed).
On the one hand, the best option is usually to share your misery with the informed, with those who are well versed in the culture, history, proximity, and vision of your brand. Yes, there is something intangibly comforting when tapping our (uninformed) social networks, who will 9 times of out 10 agree with our personal opinions and wrap us with sympathy and empathy: “I can’t believe your boss did that!”, “How do you still work there?”, or “I remember feeling that way, too, when I worked there. Just scream and walk out!” Yes, it makes us happy to read the support, but is this best solution to workplace misery? 9 times out of 10, no.
Keep your social reflex in check
Yes, this post is personal. I’ve had my share of drama, and misery, at work. I found myself recently having to check my reflex. And It was harder than I had previously realized. After getting some rather impactful news from management not too long ago, I discovered that my phone was already in my hand and I could swear that half of an emotionally-charged tweet was pre-written for me. It was a bit surreal, as the social space begged and pleaded to know the dirty details. I could almost hear the tempting call. It would have been so easy, so attention-getting, so satisfying to push that send button. But I didn’t post (no, I don’t deserve a medal for that), and each other person in the room, all also socially-connected, had to make the choice to keep things (misery, emotion, opinion) within the company, and not to invite uninformed others into the conversation. And I’m personally proud of them for that decision.
It might sound pretty duh to say “don’t air dirty laundry”, but it’s way more complicated than that. We all like to be supported, empathized with, and lifted up. This doesn’t always happen within the confines of your workplace, and you are much more likely to find rest or encouragement amongst your friends, family, fans, and followers. However, you are also much more likely to find instigation, inflammatory ideas, and intensification there. And, though the temporary release can be just what the doctor ordered, the lasting spin-off drama of airing your brand’s dirty laundry is likely the worst prescription.
I don’t suggest that you bite your tongue. I don’t recommend an unhealthy amount of internalizing. However, I do suggest that you check yourself, perhaps twice, before you post about your brand, workplace, team, or coworkers. Though it may be stormy today, the sun will come out tomorrow; and unless you plan on living both extremes on social (it’s bad, it’s great; it sucks, it’s amazing; I hate these people, I love these people), it’s best to stick to walks and talks with those who understand the situation. Though we all feel like we work at Frustrated Incorporated sometimes, let’s leaving making misery to the others.