The Value of Airing Grievances

Festivus, the holiday made famous by Seinfeld features the yearly tradition, the airing of grievances.

“The tradition of Festivus begins with the airing of grievances. I got a lot of problems with you people! And now you are going to hear about it!” – Frank Costanza

Every year, my office holds an all-day retreat where we reflect on the last year and set goals for the year ahead. Each staff member has the opportunity to plan an activity. This year, one of my colleagues led our first official Airing of Grievances. When she first brought this idea up, I was a bit worried that we would go down a rabbit hole of negativity and it would set a bad tone for the rest of the day. Surprisingly, it ended up being my favorite part of our retreat.

After spending a few minutes ruminating on the things that frustrated us about our work – we then identified each grievance as something we either had influence over, some influence over or no influence over. Those that we had no control over, we had to let it go. Surprisingly, we found that for most of the grievances we identified, we had some sort of influence to make a positive change. Whether it was having a conversation with someone about our concerns, or coaching a student on taking initiative or ownership of a problem, we realized we had more power than we thought. This flipped our way of thinking into solution-focused thinking. We challenged one another on whether we had more influence over an issue than we thought we did.

Not only did it end up being empowering, it was fun! We laughed about the shared grievances we had and made a big deal of those we had to let go – metaphorically throwing the grievance to the side with some fanfare. I love moments at work where your perspective about something is changed (we use the theory of transformational thinking with our students) and this was one of those. Not only did it change my thinking about airing frustrations but also flipped my perspective on the impact I may be able to make in situations, big and small.

Big kudos to my co-worker Katie who brainstormed this awesome activity!

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