It's Wednesday morning. You turn the key to your office door, flip the switch and sit your bag on the chair. After you hang your coat behind the door, you take your laptop from your bag and dock it on the desk. You walk over to the break room to grab your green tea and say "Hey" to Jeff as opens the door for you on your way out. You walk back into your office, sit your cup on the coaster and sit down as you release a deep breath. Just as you press the power button on your laptop, Faye storms through your door. You look up - a little shocked but concerned, and see she's flustered. She immediately takes a seat at your guest table and begins ranting about her horrific commute, then explains why there are bags under her eyes. As you half-listen to her story, you interject phrases like "oh no" and "awww" every few sentences to show empathy and remain engaged. When she finally takes a breath, you offer her an encouraging word and express your sympathy for her rough night. She smiles and says "Hopefully the day will get better" as she gets up from your table and walks out of your office.
For some odd reason, there's this stigma around having feelings at work. I cringe when I hear an employer say"leave your issues at the door", because we aren't robotic and our feelings don't work like a light switch. We are human - we experience emotion as it comes and sometimes we just need someone to listen. Being in a professional atmosphere doesn't change this trait. At any given time you could be Faye, on the verge of overloading from a long night and tough commute; or you could be her receiver, a trusted resource for compassion and understanding.
Although we cannot predict when we will need to moment to vent, the proper etiquette on sharing your feelings can be found below in my helpful guide: The Four "C"s to Venting with a Colleague.
Now that you how to appropriately share your feelings at work, there are other factors you need to take into consideration before spilling the beans. First, you should check your surroundings to ensure you are in private area. Next, you'll want to ask your receiver if they are available to listen for a moment - don't be like Faye and barge into their personal space. If you have the green light, clearly state your intentions of the conversation (i.e. "I just need to vent for a moment" / "This conversation should remain between us"). Finally, watch the time it takes you to share... your receiver may be happy to lend their ear, but they don't have hours to listen to you rant.
As you proceed through your day-to-day interactions be mindful of your sharing habits. Make sure you examine your professional relationships to determine who is your trusted resource before the need to let off steam approaches. The last thing you want to do is open up to the wrong colleague and end up having your feelings on display.