You’re out with your spouse and a pal, or your closest group of friends. You meet midweek, and everyone seems happy for the work reprieve. The conversation ranges from end-of-summer activities to musings about holiday plans—when you change the subject as per usual:
My boss is totally clueless. I swear I don’t know how he ended up actually managing people. He can’t meet a deadline, but expects everyone else to work overtime when he needs something right away. I’ve had it, and I really need to find a new job.
Instead of commiserating or offering a pat on the back and a fresh round of drinks, your buddies’ eyes glaze over, and there’s an awkward silence as you wait for someone to join in on your bitch session and complain about how his job sucks, too. But no one does. As a result, you feel miffed and like maybe you missed a beat.
Here’s the thing: You did miss a beat. You’ve been missing beats for as long as you’ve been complaining about this job the same way, every time. Months ago—or has it been years?—solutions were proffered.
There were suggestions for how you could deal with your micromanaging boss and tips for getting that raise you think you deserve. Now, nothing. The radio silence is proof that your people are so very over your job ranting. This is what may be going on, and here’s what you can do to remedy the situation:
Reason #1: They Like Their Jobs
When someone is bashing work and insulting his company and the leaders behind it, it’s pretty hard to be that guy or girl who jumps in and says, “I’m sorry to hear that. I love my job, so I’m afraid I can’t relate”—even if that’s what he or she wishes she could say. Having a safe space to air your complaints is important, but so is having room to praise the good in your life. If all you’re ever doing is putting your miserable job down, your partner or friend who actually digs his really cool position will be hard-pressed to share. And when that happens, the quiet takes over, leaving you to feel like an idiot.
What You Can Do: Let it Go
Must you complain about your organization’s abysmal vacation policy, or the team member who drops the ball again and again every single time? No, you mustn’t. Leave some space for someone else to praise his work, his boss, his department. If you’re not saying anything new, and you aren’t doing anything to turn your situation around, let it go.
Reason #2: They Don’t Know How to Help—Anymore
Sure, there was a time when you first realized your job was the pits, and in the beginning your partner was interested in hearing all the little details. But after a while, when the complaints haven’t changed, but the vehemence with which you state them has, it’s likely your attempts at getting your frustrations off your chest have only managed to try the patience of your once-understanding partner-in-crime. When people feel at a loss for how to assist, they may disengage and pull away. That won’t be helpful to you when you really need a shoulder.
What You Can Do: Limit Your Ranting
Be up front if you’ve met up after a rough day at the office: “Look, I know you’re probably tired of hearing this, but I just need two minutes to get it out so that we can enjoy our evening. Is that OK?” It’s highly unlikely that this politely worded request will get rejected. But, if the other party agrees to listen (for the umpteenth time), stay true to your word, and keep it short.
Reason #3: They Think You’re a Lost Cause
I once had a friend who despised her job, and all she ever did was complain about it, but whenever I tried to give her advice for getting out of it or making it better for the time being, she shut me down. Eventually, I gave up. I figured she’d be unhappy at the company for years to come because she was too darn lazy to do anything about it. If your friends or even your partner is starting to think this about you, it’s not too late to change their minds.
What You Can Do: Show You Mean Business
If you have new information—you’re applying for a new job, you’re trying a new method of communication with your boss—then open with that so you get all ears; otherwise, stop complaining. Acknowledging that you know you’ve been a lot of talk without much action should perk up your listeners. Going the extra mile and reporting on what you’re doing to modify your situation should help even more.
Misery loves company, but in spite of that popular saying, there’s often a limit to how much shared misery a person can take. And, well, if your company isn’t miserable, but is decidedly content in their career, you’re going to find it increasingly difficult to vent your professional frustrations without irritating the heck out of the people close to you.
If it lately seems like your complaints are falling on deaf ears, recognize why that is and do what you can to rectify the situation before you start losing friends. And, at the very least, maybe admit to yourself that it’s time to start looking for another job?