People tend to tell me things. Often very personal things. So many times someone has confided in me something so personal that I’ll think, “Wow. I don’t really know you that well, but OK.” I take it as a compliment that they think I am both compassionate and trustworthy. My office has always been the one where people come to vent. The kleenex is always ready. Being the go-to person means that some incredible information comes my way. 99% of it I keep to myself.
Unfortunately I worked in a putrid and toxic environment so my “venting office” was a busy place. Long story short, I quit. I willingly took a significant step down in my career in pursuit of a better quality of life. And it was completely worth it. I am calmer and much happier. I now work in a much more humane office.
The problem is that all of my friends from my old job still want to call me up or meet for coffee to vent. I’m happy to maintain these relationships, but now that I escaped, I don’t feel as good about commiserating. I truly don’t care about the latest gossip or the most recent evil thing that senior management has done. I want to focus on my new happy life and my gratitude for all of the changes I’ve been able to make this past year.
So today, I drew a line in the sand. Halfway through lunch with a former co-worker, I changed the subject. “Let’s not talk about work any more. How are your kids?” He was dumbfounded. The rest of the meal was a little awkward and although he didn’t say it outright, I got the message – “If we’re not going to bitch about the department, then what are we doing here?!” Perhaps I burned a bridge. But it’s a bridge to a place I never want to go again.