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Why me? Venting Versus Whining
By Joe Bouchard
Published: 12/04/2010

Why me It is certain that everyone has a dose of bad luck from time to time. For example, there is nothing like a delay in the airport to prompt one to feel a bit of self pity. When travel plans are disrupted and uncomfortably extended due to no fault of your own, what else can be asked but, “Why me?”

I realized (once again) that I had no control over the mechanical problem in an airport far from my home. For the sake of my mental health and the comfort of those around me, I simply had to work out my frustrations. The six hour flight delay was a bit of an opportunity. I would not have otherwise stopped for a delicious, slow paced meal. I was also given ample time to think about and create that which you are reading now. And, I literally walked on the length of all concourses at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. In other words, there were other productive things to do than to complain – no matter how tempting it may be.

Many of us in corrections may vent a bit when it seems that the universe conspires against us at every juncture. I believe that a certain amount of venting is necessary to ease the stress of daily operations weigh on us. A short burst of complaint helps us to break the tension.

Under normal circumstances, most of us can move on from the events that caused us to question the wanton vengefulness of unseen forces. Unfortunately, not all of us rebound so quickly. It comes to no surprise that every work-site has a chronic complainer in their ranks.

Of course, Dear Reader, the irony is not lost on me. This appears to be a complaint about complainers. Consider this, if you will, as a safety check. Regarding the griper, what many of us consider a distasteful character flaw can morph into a viable danger to staff, offenders and the public. Granted, that is contingent on many events happening. But, it is not unheard of for a disenfranchised griper to land in the cross hairs of a would-be manipulator.

Seeking any sympathetic ear, once the grouser finds a suitable sounding board, “friendships” may form and favors could be exchanged. It may seem like chance that brings an enterprising offender who is a good listener to the staff griper. One should wonder if this is more than coincidence. The walls have ears and manipulators assess targets for neediness.

Part of our vocational armor is comprised of camaraderie. Even so, it is difficult to cultivate a professional relationship with a complainer. Still, that is the best antidote for the ever-present diseases of staff disunity and manipulation.

Sometimes, we are the problem. As professionals who ideally spend ample time observing others, it is not always easy to analyze our own behavior. We can gauge our complaining factor by assessing how our colleagues react to us. Another test is to compare your actions and reactions to similarly situated people. Also, our tolerance for colleagues who need to vent may be lower than it is.

This too shall pass. Bad luck or, if you prefer, a series of events that justify grumbling, will not be a permanent state. As you assess yourself, this is an important realization. It may be easier to plan to make lemonade out of lemons than to do it. But it becomes more imperative when weighed against the possibility of vulnerable staff.

It is naïve to assume that all bad events are opportunities without frustration. But it is better to deal swiftly with frustration rather than allow it eat away at your patience. Venting in moderation is useful. Rampant complaining in corrections provides fertile grounds for the seeds of staff division. In the end, we need to ask, is it venting or is it chronic complaining?

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