Recently I asked one hundred and fifty people what their colleagues did that ‘drove them crazy’ in the workplace. The top reason; forty-eight percent responded by stating it was their colleagues COMPLAINING. That’s nearly half of respondents complaining about complaining.

Many times I have been told by managers that employees will complain about colleagues, and then will say, ‘But I don’t want you to do anything about it’. There are reasons why employees say this – but it often leaves managers in a difficult position. One manager shared with me she spends up to two days per week, ‘listening to complaints about staff from other staff’. Two days per week! That’s some serious lost productivity!

Useless Vs Useful Complaining

Useless Complaining occurs when you complain without taking action – you are giving your power away. You might feel like you have got something off your chest, and feel better short term, but it won’t last and soon you will have to complain again.

In his article ‘Sabotaging your Responsibility by Complaining’ Dr. L. Michael Hall explains:

‘When you are complaining and not taking action, you are just complaining. And with that, you are probably undermining, even sabotaging, your personal power and responsibility. Complaining, as talk to someone else, assumes that you can’t do anything, so you are trying to enlist someone else to take effective action for something you care about. Yet in reciting a verbal list of the things you don’t like, don’t prefer, and want someone else to change —you are avoiding your own responsibilities. The funny thing is that some people feel good, nurture themselves, and/or think that they are doing something constructive about a problem when they complain’.

Useful Complaining is when you describe the situation and take action. You do what is within your power. Once you have done that, you can let it go knowing you have done everything YOU can to resolve it. The problem may not be resolved, but at least you have taken action. There is no need to dwell on it. You can choose to move on. You can feel good long term that you did what you could to try to resolve the situation.

Bob’s Story:

Bob loved to complain. And he drove his colleagues crazy. They described him as negative, annoying and a ‘whinger’. Then Bob discovered that he thought he was doing something about the problem (by complaining), and that he was hoping that his complaining would magically move others into action (to fix the problem). After realizing this, Bob reduced his complaining at work by 50% in 90 days. ‘I still complain, but only if I consider it as useful complaining and I’m also willing to be part of the solution. I ask myself, ‘Is this useful?’

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