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Complaining: Counter-Productive In The Workplace?

By: Thomas Muller - Updated: 8 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
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Constructive complaint is a key part of a productive workplace, but when it serves no purpose other than as a social moan, it can have a very detrimental effect.

Positive and Negative Complaint at Work

Few workplaces are filled with happy employees working together in harmony mutual respect. It is a fact of working life you’ll have to work alongside somebody who has a talent for rubbing people up the wrong way, whether through their personality or work practise.

There are two ways to alleviate the problem – either complain to them directly or complain about them to somebody else. A direct complaint where the purpose is to rectify a problem and initiate a positive change is good type of complaint, and a necessary feature in working life. However a complaint about someone that serves no constructive purpose is moaning, and is a damaging force at work.

The Damaging Effects of Moaning

Although it’s true that moaning about a fellow employee or boss behind their back can provide some social banter and bring colleagues together, but ultimately not only does it not solve the problem, but it is harmful and cultivates a terrible working atmosphere. Moaning can squeeze out all the joy, innovation and motivation from the work environment.

Much like how malicious gossip builds its power every time somebody passes it on, the more people furtively air their own grievances about a person the bigger the villain they create – often completely out of proportion with the reality. The upshot is that between them they’ve created a much bigger menace – a figure seemingly comprised entirely of negative traits without one redeeming feature.

Complaining is a Disease

Negative complaint is a disease that can corrupt the mind. The more someone complains the more natural it is and the more cynical and jaded they become. In the end they see only the negativity in everything.

Such pessimism is contagious. If all talk in the workplace concerns how bad things and people are, and how they’re getting worse, then it instils a perpetual downer, where employees are despondent and all hope has faded. What’s the point of trying to improve the situation if it’s not going to make any difference?

For a business to be successful it needs to be constantly moving forward, adapting to the times and always looking for ways to improve its service. If the workforce is pessimistic and sees no hope in the future then they will not only hamper productivity but also lack the creative and innovative spark needed to keep their company alive. Serial complainers will also knock down anybody that does have ideas and a vision for the future.

Negativity is Unhealthy

Not only does negativity affect the health of the workplace but it is also proven to have a detrimental effect on the health of the complainer. Positive people are typically healthier, live longer, are more successful and enjoy life more. They are also not averse to complaining either, but instead of using it to undermine they use it as a positive force for change.

A harmonious and productive workforce is one that complains constructively, in a way that leads to a problem being solved rather to more complaint. It is also one which recognises the harm of negative complaining and is able to deal with it effectively and stop it gaining power.

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It seems almost all post online dealing with complaining paint it negatively. If problems are not brought up they might very well be left until disaster strikes. A real boss listens to employees complaints and tries to resolve them without labeling someone "a complainer". The boss should also be handling people problems and not throwing them back on the person making the complaint. I have 10 years in leadership positions and it's no wonder to me now why so many companies have toxic environments from labeling people who could save them as "complainers".
Joshysa - 3-Oct-11 @ 6:25 PM
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