Complaining as Relationships Building

A New York Times story touched on recent perspectives on complaining. A theme in this work is that complaining relates to much more than the distress generated by the topics of complaints. Complaining about hard work has something to do with work demands but it also has a lot to do with positioning oneself with those to whom one complains.

    • It could be a bid for sympathy: Please feel concern for my plight.

    • It could be a distancing ploy: Leave me alone; I’m too busy to deal with you.

    • It could be a tactic for avoiding more demands: Look elsewhere for assistance.

The audience’s reaction further defines the relationship:

    • I am the shoulder to cry on OR Do not bother me with this nonsense.

    • I will leave you along OR I am not going anywhere until you deal with me.

    • I will do this job myself OR This work is your responsibility so deal with it.

Complaining is not necessarily a bad thing. Complaining may be the first step towards taking action. And it is an integral part of workplace relationships. Suppressing complaints has the potential for encouraging stagnation.

But the reaction to complaints makes a real difference.

    • Are you a complainer or a listener to complaints?

    • Which alternative response resonates with you?


  1. Dear Dr. Leiter:

    I totally agree with the description about the role os complaining. Here in our Institution, we know some profesionals of complaining and the incidence is related to burnout. We observe in their complaints a lack of organization in time. They speak of events in a whole life history as if they happened just weeks ago or still happening. Such complaints doesn’t lead to a good solutions and we must be aware and first prove if those statements are good parameters for improving things.

    1. Good to hear from you Heriberto

      The leadership challenge is making the shift from complaining to solutions. Listening is a step along the way, but action makes all the difference.
      All the best,

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