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Tips for Effective Complaining

Image via Creative Commons, Celestine Chua’s Flickr photostream. (Source)

It seems that 50% of the conversations I have or emails I read contain some form of complaining. Maybe it just seems like a lot because of my kids, employees, or boss(es), etc. I don’t know.There is one thing that I’ve realized though – Everyone is complaining and most people are A) not doing it right, and B) not adding to a solution.

Let’s start simple:

What is a complaint?
It is making others aware of a perceived short-falling in a method, behavior, or result. It is the starting point of a process that concludes with a solution or decision to not act. That’s my definition at least. If you seriously need more, go to Webster.

What should we complain about?
Anything that you feel needs to be corrected, made more efficient, or something you want to forum and/or brainstorm. (please NOTE: I did not say “anything you want someone else to figure out for you!). Remember, as the complainer, you now have a role in developing the solution. If you are not willing to contribute to the solution, don’t complain.

How is it done?






Knowing that you may have to escalate in this manner, it’s a good idea to be extremely specific and professional in the original email. It’s also good practice to forward the entire email thread so newcomers can see the history.

This will vary greatly based on the situation but regardless of the issue, it is wise to document the steps you took to resolve the issue – especially if a decision you made contributed to the problem to begin with. If you are documenting a 10-day negative trend with a system’s performance, just document it and skip the phone call.



Note: If for some reason the situation is making your blood boil, do not discuss it until you’ve calmed down. Your emotions can seriously make you sound ridiculous. Also, I would not recommend coming home from work, having a few drinks, and then firing email missiles at people. In my younger years, I did that and I woke up in the morning thinking, “What the *$#@ did I just do?”













The last thing you want to be known as is a serial-complainer. To be honest, people hate them and cringe when they call. They are also the people whose complaints get pushed down the list. Don’t be that person, be productive and add some input. You will be surprised how much your stress level decreases as you see your complaints get resolved.-Jay

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