Venting Workplace Stress On You Tube

Last Updated May 20, 2011 12:59 PM EDT

You're mad as Hell and can't take it any more. So what do you do? Go to Xtranormal videos and make a (hopefully) funny movie about your gripes. That's what many disgruntled, overworked or otherwise miffed employees have been doing as a way of relieving their work-related stress, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times.

The website allows you to choose robotic characters, choose a background, and write the dialog, which the characters deliver in an emotionless flat voice. A couple months ago, I watched a movie made by a fellow freelance writer and laughed so hard I cried. It followed an absurd conversation between the writer and a fictionalized editor of a women's magazine (this may only be funny if you've been there). Other videos include A Day In The Life of a Telephone Man, First Year Insurance Agent and Working Mom.

You can watch one here:

Making these movies, which is so easy that a child can do it, can be cathartic because by writing the script, you're getting the feelings off your chest and finding humor in your circumstance. By creating a dialog, you may actually see things from the other person's perspective for the first time. It's a creative process, which may take you out of your daily. You're also providing some catharsis for your viewers, by simply giving them a good laugh and voicing something they've experienced.

But is venting publicly and permanently online (in order to show a movie you've made to your friends, you have to publish them in the public domain) good for your career? That depends. It's okay if you can do it with humor, you don't come across angry or complaining, and if you don't target any particular person or company.

I tried to make one about the plight of bloggers, which I won't post here, but found that it wasn't easy to make it funny and not sound like I'm a complainer. So I asked for some humor tips from Jim Tosone, founder of Improv Means Business, which holds corporate workshops to enhance creativity, communication, and collaboration among team members.

  • Make yourself easy to relate to. The most satisfying laughter comes from recognizing a character's behavior in yourself as the reader. Give readers something to relate to in the characters. What are your character's hopes and dreams and why is he staying in his job in spite of the hardships?
  • Use self-deprecating humor. Characters are more relatable if they have flaws.
  • Don't make it a dialog between good (you) and evil (your nemesis). You need to include your nemesis' point of view too. What are his struggles and demands? By simply going through this exercise, you may discover a perspective that had never occurred to you before.
  • Use exaggeration judiciously. While exaggeration is a great comedic technique, think about what your goal is. Is it siply to get a laugh, or is it to make a serious point? Exaggeration can make a situation too absurd to relate to.
  • View your own movie. By watching your home-made movie, you can see what you sound like to others, which you don't get when you're simply venting to a friend. It may make you realize that your complaints are petty or simply not that important in the larger scheme of things.
Have you made a movie? Watched one you liked? Let me know in the comments section below.
Laurie Tarkan is an award-winning health journalist who writes for the New York Times, national magazines and websites including Health, Prevention, Ladies Home Journal, iVillage and the Huffington Post. Follow her on twitter.
Photo courtesy of Xtranormal
  • Laurie Tarkan

    Laurie Tarkan is an award-winning health journalist who writes for The New York Times and many national magazines. She is a contributing editor at Fit Pregnancy magazine and the author of three books, Perfect Hormone Balance for Fertility, Perfect Hormone Balance for Pregnancy and My Mother's Breast: Daughters Ace Their Mothers' Cancer.. You can follow her on Twitter at @LaurieTarkan.