How To Complain At Work (The Right Way)

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Stressed woman at work

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Alyson Garrido, Career Coach447
Job Search and Career Advancement
June 23, 2024 at 5:44PM UTC
While everyone needs to vent every once in a while, constantly complaining about the same topics can damage your professional reputation. No one appreciates constant grumbling, and no one wants to be seen as a chronic complainer.
Venting to one or two trusted colleagues is okay, but you need to create an action plan to move forward. Below are the five most common office complaints. The odds are that these thoughts have crossed your brain at some point, but instead of allowing the negativity to take over the situation — get ready to take massive action to find a real solution.

The 5 Most Common Office Complaints—and How to Deal

1. This isn’t fair!

Just writing this phrase makes me want to stomp my feet and scowl. When something isn’t fair, we feel hopeless and put responsibility in someone else’s hands. There are a few ways to reframe this complaint:
Put yourself in your assailant’s shoes. Why might they have made this seemingly unfair decision? Could it have been avoided? Try to get to the root of this unfair practice to understand why it is happening.
Next, determine what you can control. You can always control your reaction, but there may be even more that you can change. Try to learn from this unfair practice and ensure you don’t behave similarly. Could you change the practice? There are options, but those options can be hard to see when we focus on a situation not being equitable.
Instead say: What can I do to make this better?

2. I’m not challenged.

Every job has ebbs and flows. First, determine if this is just a quiet moment and if things will pick up soon. If that’s the case, enjoy the downtime and get yourself ready for when things kick back into gear. If your boredom is a persisting issue, it’s time to determine what kinds of challenges you’d like to take on.
Be strategic about how you occupy your time. Is there a project you’ve had your eye on? A system or procedure you’d like to improve? Determine what you can take on and volunteer to do something that will set you up for your next move — internally or externally. If you need your boss’ input, approach her with ideas instead of waiting for her to decide what projects will suit you best. Having a guideline or suggestion will help your boss help you and make it more likely that you’ll be happy with the outcome.
Instead say: How can I work on projects that interest me?

3. There is no room for advancement.

Do you know this to be a fact? You may consider this to be fact based on lunch or after-work conversations with coworkers, but do you know that this is true based on your discussions with your boss? If you are sure there is no path for advancement, then it is time to focus on what makes you want to stay in your job or determine your plan to start your job search.
Most times, you'll decide to leave. Before complaining that there is no room for advancement, decide where you want to go and present a plan to get there. Let your boss know your career ambitions (but keep your general life plans to yourself). Share how you’d like to position yourself for your next role and create milestones to track your progress.
Instead say: How can I position myself for a promotion?

4. I can’t satisfy my boss.

This is another very common complaint that puts the onus on other people. Communication is key to addressing this gripe. If you have an inkling that you’re not doing well, consider setting up a meeting with your boss to get her direct feedback and see where you can improve. The situation will allow you to address any problem in a safe space.
If you’re regularly hearing negative feedback about your work from your boss, talk to her about her expectations and needs. Understanding her perspective will put the two of you on the same page. (She may have already mastered the art of not complaining, so her requests from you may be more subtle.) Like everyone else, your boss wants to be heard. Show that you’re willing to listen and improve.
Instead say: How do I understand what is expected of me?

5. I can’t manage my workload.

We all feel overworked at times, but you are in charge of the way you handle it. Instead of complaining about what you can’t manage, decide what you can.
Last year, I attended a time management workshop led by Judith Gordon, a former attorney and founder of LeaderESQ, during which she discussed the four D’s of time management — do, defer, delegate and delete. This concept, which was first shared in the book “Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity” can be instrumental in organizing your day.
Use this method to tackle your to-do list and get a handle on your workload. If you need your boss’ input to tackle a problem, share your assessment of what you can do and what needs to wait, rather than simply venting about your workload. Share what you are going to do first and get your boss to agree to the timeline you're setting for yourself. Focus on having a can-do attitude and, if needed, reshuffle your priorities.
Instead say: I can complete these tasks.
Turning these common complaints into action will help you take control of your situation and move forward with purpose. Banish negative thought from your mind and commit to taking massive action against grumbling and complaining. It can change your career for the better!

Dealing with Complaints as a Manager

When you're the boss, it can be frustrating to field complaints from employees. Here are some tips to make it easier for both you and your team.

• Give employees the opportunity to offer constructive criticism.

You might, for instance, suggest that your employees give you feedback as part of your open-door policy.

• Empathize.

You might think the complaint is ridiculous, but before you dismiss your employee, put yourself in her shoes. Does the complaint seem valid? Take a beat to consider where she's coming from.

• Work together to find a solution.

Just because your employee has a complaint doesn't mean it's fully up to you to come up with a solution. If the complaint has some merit, work on developing a solution together. Ask if your employee has some ideas about how to resolve the issue in addition to offering suggestions of your own.

• Recognize that sometimes, people just need to vent.

It might not be about you. Sometimes, just listening can help your employee feel better about the situation.
Alyson Garrido is passionate about helping women advance their careers and find jobs they will enjoy. As a career coach, she partners with her clients to identify their strengths and create a path toward a more fulfilling career. Alyson provides support around preparing for interviews, performance reviews and salary negotiations, ensuring that you present yourself in the best possible light for job search and career advancement. Learn more or book a session with Alyson by visiting 

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