How to Properly Complain at Work

We know what you’re thinking. We should all be positive at work, right? Happy, happy, happy!

Well, there’s usually one person in the bunch who complains all of the time but then it quickly spreads to even the most well-adjusted colleague.

In another instance, complaining could fester because there’s a legitimate issue and no one is raising it up the flagpole.

Sigal Barsade, professor at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, told The New York Times, “If we suppress our dissatisfaction, it will come out in other ways, and it will reduce our cognitive function.” She added, “You get a complaining culture.”

Although complaining can ironically help teams bond if they feel down and out, overworked and underpaid, when you stop to think about it, it’s not productive to fester in negativity all day as productivity likely plummets.

So, what to do if you’re surrounded by constant complainers? Recognize your source. If the complaint seems legit and from a colleague who picks and chooses what he or she complains about, as suggested in the piece, simply listen and extend sympathy. You can always give advice later on or try seeing the situation from a new angle (as in a positive one that works toward a solution).

Then there are others who complain about everything. It’s too hot! It’s too cold! I have too much work! I am bored! Try to just block these people out. They’re draining your time and energy and clearly want attention.

That said, if there’s a complaint that is recurring and several people experience it and you do as well such as perhaps a serious issue of no one having the opportunity to get promoted, it’s time to turn that complaint into a feasible solution. Address it by talking to your boss. Chatting amongst your peers usually doesn’t create a concrete solution but talking to your boss or even HR will at least be a step in a positive direction.

Robin Kowalski, psychology professor at Clemson University in South Carolina, told the newspaper, “Complaining has to be strategic, and it has to be done in moderation, in order to have positive outcomes.”