Think before COMPLAINING – Work is a No Whine Zone!
“Never tell your problems to anyone—20% don’t care and the other 80% are glad you have them. Lou Holtz
Complaining on the job can be a slippery slope – addictive and resulting in one being perceived as negative, especially if there is never a presentation of the problem AND possible solutions. There is a fine line between expressing opinions, offering suggestions and ideas and simply running your mouth. You don’t even need to be in earshot of authority; your coworkers will gladly quote you to your manager. If you are talking at work about something work related which you do not approve of, be sure that word will get around, probably with additional comments you never made and/or a slant you did not intend. Remember the childhood game of Gossip? One person whispers something to another and it is repeated down the line until the last recipient of the message repeats what he/she thinks the original message was. This last statement which makes it through the chain of people is guaranteed to be different from the original. THE OFFICE IS NO PLACE TO PLAY GOSSIP. If you complain assume any and all coworkers and managers hear at least some version of your complaint.
That being said, if you must express your displeasure at work, consider the following before you engage your mouth:
1. Your length of time on the job
The shorter your tenure on the job, the less favorable your complaint will be taken. You need to earn the right to express your opinion.
2. Your position in the company
If you have no authority or position in the company, where do you come off in complaining about policy?
3. Your performance record
Those with a stellar performance record can offer their opinions at will, while those with a poor performance record better put up first or shut up for now.
Before you express a complaint, make certain that you are prepared to offer a possible solution. This makes you a part of the effort to improve, i.e. a team player.
Let’s suppose for a minute that you are one of those people who has written on his forehead, “Tell me your troubles, I care.” If you are such a person, you may find yourself the recipient of complaints from a negative coworker. Usually the complainer does not want advice, he/she just wants to vent, and you look like someone who will listen. How does one handle this situation, especially if it becomes constant and aggravating? You can try several strategies. Listen, but set limits and do not hesitate to tell your negative colleague that you would prefer more positive subjects. You do not want to be a negative magnet and appear guilty of complaining by association. It is okay to let someone know that you care about his happiness but disagree with his assessment of the situation. Try actively listening to the complaint, question and ask for clarification. If you feel qualified to provide advice and ideas, feel free to do so but keep in mind that long term attempts to “help” your coworker can sap your energy and positivity. Recommend professional help through HR, seminars and/or helpful books. For someone who exudes negativity and presents complaining as a chronic condition, you can always request to gracefully bow out and refuse to discuss “how the company is going down the tubes, they are being treated unfairly, customers are worthless – ad infinitum.
Whether you are the complainer or the listener/sounding board, consider that negativity has no place in a vibrant, progressive company. NEGATIVITY IS A CHOICE YOU MAKE. ASK YOURSELF DO I NEED A NEW JOB, A NEW COMPANY, A NEW CAREER, NEW OUTLOOK, OR PROFESSIONAL COUNSELING. DECIDE FOR YOURSELF BEFORE YOUR MANAGER MAKES THE DECISION FOR YOU.
“I personally believe language developed because of our deep inner need to complain.” Jan Wagner, The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe