Why Not Complain To Your Boss – Here’s What To Do Instead?

Delivering a difficult message especially to your boss can seem challenging. But when done right, it can form a trusting relationship with your manager. Complaining directly to the immediate supervisor can sometimes backfire and lead to termination. Hence, finding the correct approach to complain to the boss—one that aligns with your company is critical. For starters, explain the impact the problem has on you and the organization. While complaining at the workplace, maintaining a tone that focuses on the solution shows that you are open to resolving conflicts. It all boils down to having the right mindset while speaking your mind or complaining at work.

Jake walks up the stairs of the company building to have a little air and vent out his frustration to the heavens of how unfavorable the office environment is; on getting there, he spends approximately 2 minutes venting his frustration without noticing his colleague Melissa. She has been there longer and has heard every word Jake has had to say and agreed in silence.

Jake notices the teary eyes as they say “hi” to one another. He goes ahead to ask what was wrong, and she narrates how Williams (the managing director) never listens to her ideas, doesn’t appreciate the excellent work she does and the long hours she puts in. They later spend 2 hours 30 minutes complaining about the sad reality of their work environment and how it worsens by the day. Then raises the question, “What do we do?” “Who do we talk to?”, “What is the right way to make our complaints heard”?.

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You Are Not Alone

Statistics show that about 53% of Americans are unhappy at work. In fact, a whopping 79% of people cite a lack of appreciation by their boss as a reason for leaving their jobs.

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No workplace can be a perfect fit and tick all your boxes. From toxic co-workers and work environment to less pay or an incompetent boss, the list of complaints can vary. So, what to do instead of moaning and grudgingly living through your job?

Why Is Complaining A Bad Thing To Do?

Complaining is the easy way out.

Imagine you are irritated about a repeating cycle of negligence by your boss or colleagues; instead of taking the pain of having “the difficult discussion,” you would realize that it is easier to express your displeasure to some other colleague who concurs. Momentarily you feel better and heard, but the issue is nothing actually changes; in fact, you become more and more aware of your concerns. In the long run, you end up feeling more pain and frustration as nothing changes.

Furthermore, persistent complaints extend the cycle of annoyance. It is the easy way out, but it’s an addictive habit to refrain from. The hard way you break bad habits is the same way to break a complaining attitude if it becomes a personality trait.

What Does Complaining Result To?

Complaining is a no-good attitude that alters the team dynamics and messes with positivity at work leaving behind a toxic work environment. It can result in unresolved conflicts within an environment allowed to grow and nurture, making the complainer look pessimistic. Besides the reason for the complaints, you can easily become another problem to deal with.

So, let’s picture this; there was a family meeting in which you were addressed in a provocative manner after which the issues are not rightly and properly dealt with; you then go about speaking about how wrongly you were spoken to.

This complaint would incite some level of anger and negativity in the hearts and minds of those who were not in that meeting, and so true or not, some bias exists in your listeners about who said what. So, merely complaining can do more harm than good.

What To Do Instead Of Complaining?

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Now, that we have looked at how bad complaining can be and how it shapes the personality of a complainer, let’s talk about what to do to curb this habit.

1. Talk It Out

Ironically, the first thing to do is make them understand where you come from. Instead of complaining to express frustration and wrongdoings, you complain or express your thoughts to the person that agitated your feelings to sort things out.

So here is another way to put it, talk to that family member that yelled at you at the meeting, reason with your boss about how ill they are treating you, don’t just complain, and throw tantrums at who cares to listen. Instead, talk to the person that is the reason for your frustration.

Although this feels like a difficult path to take to resolve issues, it is also more likely to resolve conflicts. Addressing issues in this manner ultimately builds up emotional courage; helping you to expressly and constructively have difficult conversations. Before you have such discussions, make sure:

  • Your emotionally stable, and think analytical brain.
  • Have full control of your words and actions.
  • Verbalize your thoughts and feelings.
  • Have an open mindset.
  • Try to read the countenance of the other party to make sure they are in the right state of mind for such a difficult conversation.
  • Learn the secret behind persuading people

2. Be Empathetic

The second thing to learn is empathy.

Whenever your boss gets on your nerve and starts yelling, please take a moment to see things from his perspective, literally put yourself in their shoes. This might not be relatively easy to see at the moment, but having a culture that makes you process other people’s feelings and emotions would go a long way to have a positive attitude in your workplace.

Furthermore, empathy helps you see the good in people and appreciate the work they put in. So in fighting the habit of complaining at work, don’t be blinded by what you feel in the moment and forget the good in colleagues, boss, family members, etc.

3. Gratitude

The third habit to develop is the act of gratitude. The research shows that if we deliberate expressed gratitude at least three times a day, we get a huge boost in happiness that ultimately energizes us for the day.

Two contradictory emotions, positivity and negativity, cannot coexist. Hence, if you choose positivity and express gratitude, you can be sure to be on the right track to complain less often.

Furthermore, research also proves that expressing more gratitude and a less complaining attitude could vitalize and captivate your co-workers and boss into creating an enjoyable work environment.

4. Use Praises To Reinforce Them

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A sequel to having grated is singing the praises of men. Now, this is not to say that you idolize or human worship your boss or colleague but be intentional in identifying the good in people. Make that foreknowledge in your daily interactions with them. This would help shape your character towards a better, positive person. As you practice this more and more, you gradually begin to curb complaining about the inefficiencies of your boss or colleague.

Daniel T. Willingham, professor of cognitive psychology at the University of Virginia, shares in an article that honest praise with an intention to truly appreciate a person can instill motivation.

Additionally, heaping praises on people help push them in such a direction that they become more energetic and full of life. This way, they tend to bring more to the table and have a bias in their minds, making them want to please you.

So, in the long run, not only did you help them become more productive, you have little or nothing to complain about. It is a win-win. It wouldn’t be wrong to admit that there is recognition and power in praises.

5. Learn To Let Go

Lastly on what you can do instead of complaining is learning to let go. Although it sounds so difficult, it is achievable; imagine you were assigned a task and a presentation is to be made. So you were on the front foot about it; you took it seriously as though your life depended on it.

The day of the presentation comes, and you put up an amazing performance, or so you thought. In the end, your boss is unimpressed, and some unfriendly comments are thrown at you. The disappointment you will feel would be overboard.

You could lose it, go about complaining and yelling how bad your boss is and how you don’t deserve to be treated that way, and that would be understandably right. But, on the flip side, you could take pride in how good you were by your standards, pay attention to the corrections your boss made, and let go of the hurt you felt. The latter would drive you to be a better version of yourself.

Let go of the toxic feelings and emotions you feel that make you want to fuel your complaints. Also, learn to let go of the things you can’t control. Admit that you don’t hold the defining power to everything in life. For example, you can’t control how your co-workers behave. This will help you shift your focus on work rather than complaining. So instead, channel your energy to the things in your reach, which is how you respond to situations.

Concluding Thoughts

In conclusion, complaining is in the nature of human beings. Everybody finds a means to complain at some point, or the other has complained about one or two things. But you can be sure to learn to direct your energy correctly. Practice the above-discussed points, and you are on your way to becoming an energetic, positive person.

Focus on yourself and the tasks at hand. Make work your centre of attention, not complaining and gossiping.

Key Takeaways On Complaining At Your Workplace

  • Take baby steps. For starters, talk to the people involved; if that doesn’t help, escalate it to the HR department of your company.
  • Complaining frequently may lead you to become the subject of doubt as well. Your superiors may question you about your involvement in all the issues that occur.
  • Complaining may change the judgment of positive and negative at your workplace.
  • Rather than complaining, focus on your work.
  • Instead of complaining to your boss, express your opinions to the concerned person directly. Always put effort into creating a friendly environment at your workplace.
  • Complaining often makes you the villain of the whole story. People can also perceive you as being aggressive.
  • Complaining to your boss about co-workers can do more harm than good.
  • Talk it out: Confront the concerned person. Talking it out to the concerned person helps more and avoids conflicts from taking place. 
  • Be empathetic: Remember that not everyone is perfect. One argument doesn’t make the concerning individual evil. It is the situation that needs handling, not the person. Be a little empathetic towards them instead of aggressively charging and accusing the person.
  • Use praises to reinforce them: Do not confuse praise with mindlessly following. Praising refers to only acknowledging the good work someone has done. It shows how you, despite the conflicts, respect the work. 
  • Learn to let go: Try not to hold grudges against people. Learn to let go of the things said and the past. No amount of fights or anything can change the past, so instead, go ahead and move on. Learn to forgive them as well. Forgiving alleviates us rather than bringing us down.

Without my boss firing me, how can I complain to him about work problems?

Instead of taking matters directly to your boss, try and resolve the problem professionally by talking with the concerned individual. If this doesn’t help resolve the issue, take the matters to the HR department of your company. Let them do their job and wait patiently.

Is it wrong to complain at work?

Complaining often leaves a bad impression at the workplace. There is a correct way to approach the issues; follow that instead of directly complaining to your boss.

However, when things are out of your control, and it’s a matter of survival, you have no choice but to complain to higher authorities. Also, learn to express your opinions without offending others and speak up for yourself.

Can complaining reduce my stress?

It may reduce your stress but don’t complain about every wrong thing that happens at our workplace. But, on the other hand, it may lead you to excessively use it as a medium to solve even the tiniest bit of problems you might face.

Is complaining bad for your mental health?

Yes, complaining about every small to big thing can become a habit at times. And bad habits die hard. However, excessive complaining can become a coping mechanism for your brain and, in turn, affect your mental health. Furthermore, complaining all the time results in a decrease in the quality of your work.

AT Author is a writer at AlignThoughts. She shares her thoughts and ideas to inspire and help others for personal growth.