How to Complain Professionally at Your Workplace
We humans love to complain. We grouse and gripe. We grumble. We vent. We even kvetch. When I get together with friends, we often seem to kick things off by complaining about every little thing. We laugh as we do, knowing full well that none of the things we’re complaining about really matter. We just like to whine before the wine.
And actually, not all complaining is intended to seek a resolution. In some instances, it’s a way to make connections. Complaining about the long line at your favorite coffee emporium or the upgrade that’s driving you crazy can serve as an icebreaker. For people who struggle to make small talk, grousing about a shared grievance can create rapport.
More often, though, when we complain, we want some attention paid to our grievances. According to surveys and interviews, the top ten things employees most often complain about include salaries, benefits, favoritism, and workloads.
If you’re going to complain at work, make sure you adopt a calm, professional manner. This is absolutely key. Think about what you want to say; maybe even rehearse it. Don’t march into your boss’s office (or anyone else’s) in a huff, so wound up you won’t make any sense. Whining won’t get you what you want; more likely, it will hurt your case.
And don’t grouse about every little thing. No one likes a complainer. While the squeaky wheels may get the grease (or the attention, for those who aren’t idiomatically inclined), people viewed as complainers limit their career advancement opportunities. So except for private grumbling with your coworkers, restrict your complaints to things for which legitimate solutions are feasible. Don’t bring your boss or HR complaints that stand little chance of getting resolved.
By the way, if you’re going to complain to HR about your boss, it can’t be just because the person is behaving like a jerk or a bossy boss. HR may be willing to offer suggestions for dealing with the boss, but for HR to take action, the boss usually needs to be doing something harmful to you, the team, or the company, such as discrimination or illegal activity.
Whenever you do complain, strive to offer recommendations to resolve the problem. Even if your suggestions can’t be acted on, the fact that you presented them makes it more difficult for others to dismiss you as a grumbler. You’ll also be increasing the chances that the solution selected is the one you want.
In the meantime, who’s the idiot who parked a car so it spans two parking spaces? Grouse… gripe… grumble…