Complaint Department

Complaining is easy.  We can find fault with just about everything if we take the time to examine it closely enough.  If you’ve ever read past the third comment on anything posted online, you’ve seen that people do just that.  And that begs the question, “Why do we exert such effort and time to focus on the negative, when in the same amount of time (or less) we could find a solution, or at least improve the way we interact with the problem?”

The quick answer is that it is easier; particularly for those whose factory setting is negative to begin with.  We’ve found some degree of comfort living in pessimism and negativity.  That seems preposterous, especially seeing it in writing, but if it weren’t true we would have made the effort to change.  Besides, what power do I, one single person, have to effect change?  It is just easier to join the masses on the complaint bandwagon, hoping our sheer numbers and volume will be enough for the powers-that-be to find a suitable solution to our outrage.

The other prevailing idea for this that I’ve observed is that we think by complaining that we are doing something positive; that we are part of the solution and not part of the problem.  We confuse activity with progress, and that is dangerous.

The most glaring macro-example of this is the recent presidential election and its results.  Now more than ever in this politically polarized climate, elections are fraught with dissatisfaction and are a breeding ground for grievances and protesters.  And however valid your criticism, a litany of complaints will never equal a solution.  A solution can only be forged through communication, compromise, perseverance, and an overarching desire to find and enact one.  Anything less, and you will be left with something that may resemble a solution, but will prove unsatisfactory and likely prompt more reproach.

In a more micro- sense, I think it is safe to say that most of us have experienced a conversion to a new computer system at work.  There is a certain level of discomfort and fear of change that we experience; and the love child of discomfort and fear is complaint.  We are all familiar with the complaints:  Either “the new system doesn’t do half the stuff the old one did,” or “it will take twice as long to get my work done,” to “What a waste of money!  There was nothing wrong with the way we used to do things.  If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”

The common thread in each of these criticisms, aside from fear and discomfort, is a lack of clear understanding of both the new system and our organization’s objectives for installing it.  And nothing will narrow our perspective like a lack of understanding.  We must first search for that awareness to allow our mind to see the opportunities within the situation.  WARNING:  You may feel a strange sensation as your demeanor shifts from glass-half-empty to glass-half full.  Seek out your boss, ask him/her how the new system will help address the shortfalls of the old one.  Find out how they perceive the new system helping to achieve an organizational objective.  This is valuable information, coupled with some time spent exploring the new system, that will not only improve the way you interact with it, but will also go a long way to creating value for yourself within the company.

The same lesson applies at home in our personal relationships as well, but to avoid over-using variations of the words ‘complaint’ and ‘understanding,’ I will address that dynamic in a future article.  As always, I welcome your comments and conversation.