Ten Ways to Complain Successfully
Complainers, within organizations, are swamps of despair that drag down and demotivate. They feel good pointing out bad.
Lazy bums point fingers and pull down.
Building up is courageous, hard work.
I’m complaining about complainers.
Some complainers are cowards who complain around issues. Fix their complaint and they have another. They’re never happy because they won’t say what’s really bothering them. Coward-complainers love sounding compassionate and selfless. They say, “I’m concerned about …”
- Will fixing this satisfy your issue?
- Is there something else bothering you?
- How will you participate in solutions?
Persistent complainers are dark-cloud, energy drainers, who are happy being unhappy. Every organization suffers these pockets of misery. They blame.
Improving and tweaking the work of others often feels like complaining. They aren’t really complaining they’re “helping.” Improvements suggest not good enough. They improve from a distance.
Immature complainers whine when they don’t get their own way. They have one objective, personal comfort. What’s good for organizations or others doesn’t fit their world. Others adapt, they don’t.
- Ask permission.
- Honor progress and effort.
- Identify specific improvements. Complain optimistically. Never complain if you aren’t looking for specific steps forward.
- Choose small. One achievable improvement is worth more than a million great suggestions that can’t be done. Actionable suggestions are harder than dreams.
- Participate in solutions.
- Practice flexibility. Eagerly make personal adjustments.
- Build cultures of excellence. Complaints are part of pursuing excellence.
- Keep complaint buckets empty. Make complaining part of meetings. Ask, “What isn’t working?”
- Focus on processes and procedures more than people. Complaining about people gains momentum like pecking on weak chickens in the pen. Stop focusing on who to blame.
- Show respect.
Bonus: Successful complainers make things better.
What types of complainers live within organizations?
What are the components of a useful complaint?
An important list. Teaching people to “complain” in a way you can hear it goes a long way in building relationships and getting things done.
Love that you add “teaching people to complain” … where is the workshop titled … “How to be a Great complainer?”
I really like the idea of how negative feedback can be positioned for positive effect: “Complaints are part of pursuing excellence.” It allows (and welcomes) the possibility of complaints but ensures that it is purposeful.
We share a common purpose, so we all want to know about the complaints so we can make things better. Complaints become essential. Go further: Now we have an obligation to complain (but to do it in a way that is helpful).
Love that you add “purposeful” to this conversation. Thanks Henry.
We an obligation to complain if our purpose is noble or worthy and we want to improve.
I once took command of a group that had suffered serious issues for a long period of time and that had many and varied valid reasons to complain.
At the first meeting I was warmly welcomed with smiles all round, but you can imagine how their expressions changed when I started the meeting by saying, “as long as I am in charge, there will be no complaining”. I followed up by telling them that any and all suggestions for improving things would be looked into and the better and more thought through the suggestion, the more chance of success it would have.
Even though we were a department that was normally looked upon as a necessary evil, within two years we had become the most positive, the most successful and the most well-liked team in the business, and I know many of my employees found creative sides in themselves they hadn’t seen potential in until I came along and forbid complaining!
Thanks Paul. No complaining – all suggestions for improvement will be taken seriously! — KaPow
Blaming: complaining about others. I think sometimes people don’t even realize when they blame vs. when they should take responsibility. Great list!!
I’m with you Heidi. It’s way to easy to focus on people rather than problems. Somehow we think we’ve got something done when we have assigned blame. It’s lame.
It all sounds great BUT, if the decision makers are part of the problem instead of part of the solution what then?????
For me if I ever have anything I see as a problem that can be fixed to make us better I always have a solution that comes along for the ride.
Anyway, bottom line, if you are working with people all aligned with their WHY, values and beliefs matching and working together for a common goal communication should not be a problem to start with.
Good stuff if you got work with people who listen.
It’s not unusual to hear something like…what if the problem is at the top. If we aren’t careful self-defeating behaviors and learned helplessness turn us into the problem.
Organizations do well because of AND in spite of people at the top. Somehow, we have to find a way to make things better, not perfect. If we can’t move toward better, what’s the point.
You strike me as a “it’s easier to apologize than ask permission” type of guy.
Thanks for your daily insights.
Lol YES Dan I am the type of a fella you described!!!!!!!!!!
How did ya know????
You ought to see the results when ideas adopted, seems hearing would improve GREATLY don’t it?
About regular complainers: encourage them to go be successful in another organization. About constructive complainers: keep encouraging them to explain a) what doesn’t need to change and b) what needs to be different, then for the first steps towards the solution.
The ones to watch out for are the folks who can tell to the problem in great detail, but not the solution in great detail.
Powerful and concise. Thanks Alan.
“Encourage constructive complainers to keep complaining…” Nice!
Great post, Dan. I once worked for a firm who had a dry-erase board labeled “Broken Windows”. You’re familiar with this– the little things that can go unnoticed without proper vigilance. The problem was, the “Broken Windows” board BECAME a broken window! People might write broken windows up there, but the list was barely reviewed at all. “Well,” thought the leaders, “we have a board so team members can express their concerns.” What’s worse, a snarky comment was written on the board and went unnoticed. When it WAS noticed, the leader flew off the handle. “How can you not take this seriously?!” Perhaps we should have asked him the same question.
I love your point that complainers need to participate in solutions. Not only does this give the complainer opportunity for input, it also gives him a sense of ownership and forces him to criticize himself if he’s unhappy with the result.
Excellent lesson here, Justin. I love your comment about asking the leader if he was taking the situation seriously. Thanks for sharing this.
Lip service to complaints is so demoralizing. Out of one side of the mouth comes…”We care and listen”… But, out of the other side comes…”You don’t matter. Shut up and do as your told.” Sad. Thanks for your contribution.
Interesting post. But I feel that the word “complainers” has a negative connotation to it. I believe that a phrase such as “successful collaborators” is more attuned to the promotion of positive outcomes. People who help you identify areas in need of improvement and work with you to achieve that improvement are actually supporters and collaborators.
Great observation Tagrid. “Complainers” does have a negative feel to it. “Lets fix this” suggests the orientation that takes us further. Thanks for your regular contributions.
In my opinion, comments presented using the 10 points aren’t even classified as complaints. Employees who offer ways to improve in a respectable manner aren’t complainers, they are movers and shakers. True complainers are in it for themselves only and have had success in the past using their techniques for changing things to their advantage. If their complaint is turned back into a conversation about what they can suggest to remedy the situation, they often have no detailed response and are cut-off from their game. Consistent complaining, without offers of solution, is a form of manipulation and needs to be terminated in one way or another.
Thanks Dennis. Love your observation that complainers have succeeded with their complaining and so they continue. It suggests that leadership’s response to complaints is pivotal to creating a positive solution oriented culture. Glad you came at this from your angle.
Thanks for this contribution, Dan. Im my opinion, complaining to ameliorate situations – and especially within work environments – is ALWAYS a must-have attitude between co-workers in order to achieve positive outcomes for the firm and as a team.
Thanks binsager. Perhaps, as some have suggested we stop calling it complaining….. I’m partial to optimistic complainer. Optimistic behaviors move us forward. If complainers were optimistic they wouldn’t be downers. 🙂
Great topic and post!
Even if you do a good job successfully, you need to be honest about weaknesses.and find places for improvement … you need to find mistakes and expose the weaknesses. In that way you and your organization overcome the weaknesses and grow.
But if someone spend time talking about weaknesses, it can sound like complaining. It can be considered negative by your colleagues. Well it’s not. It is something that every organization should strive for. it’s something that they should be train people to do.
Thanks Marko… absolutely! If we are branded as negative because we point out things that can be improved, perhaps new techniques should be employed.
Perhaps remembering that one negative weighs about as much as three positives. Just to maintain positive environments we need to understand that three to one ration.
I’ve fallen into the trap of “I’m just trying to be helpful” when my “suggestions” resulted in demotivation.
I insist on every complaint being accompanied by a potential solution. This encourages people to look at the “problem” from a fresh perspective. Those who don’t attempt to find a solution are simply not entertained. It can seem cruel at first but in the long run it seems to work.
Simple..effective…actionalble…and enforceable…. = wisdom
Great list Dan!
I share in the school of thought that complaining can connote positivity,, and be synonymous to critiquing instead of criticism.
Personality-based complains, as you noted should be avoided.. Like my dad would say, ‘treat issues, not personalities’.
In our organisation there are no problems to complain about. There are only opportunities to improve. As a leadership team we are united in ensuring we correct this language whenever we hear it in order to grow a learning culture within the organisation.
I would also include accepting personal responsibility and being solution-oriented. Otherwise, it may end up with one person blaming another which is counter-productive.
I thinking complaining is a good thing for an organization because it is through this an organization would know about some issues going on in the workplace. Most employees do not have the audacity to complain because they might think they would be reprimanded by there supervisor or boss. Also, one does not have to be complaining about every little thing because it is detrimental and counter productive for your job assignment.
A good constructive list of complainers. I am sure all of us complain for various reasons at various times, but know why we, or someone else, is complaining can help us better deal with ourselves or others. Good leadership brings out the best in as many people as they can, even complainers which means dealing with root causes.