The Unexpected Power of Complaining

start complaining

Go ahead and complain

Most of us whine and complain about whiners and complainers. When you just arrive at the office, the last thing you want is someone complaining about something. There are some people who seem to relish in the negative, looking for their next target. They are always seeking someone to unload on and have a list of complaints ready to go.

Leadership is often associated with strength, decisiveness, inspiration, and positivity. Its not associated with negativity, whining, or complaining.

Still, constructive complaining is usually undervalued, often misunderstood, generally frowned upon.

There can actually be power in complaining – if it is done right and with the right intention.





A Complaint: A Seed for Change?

Most individuals treat complaints like a suspicious smell in the office fridge; it’s easier to grimace and ignore it than face the festering, months-old sandwich causing the problem.

Let’s talk about how complaining opens the door to honesty and transparency, just like your dog bursting into your room at 6 AM ready for a walk. Complaints can reveal something important you’ve been missing—like my glasses, often hidden on my head. If we miss something, we can’t deal with it.



Complaining could be the kick-start for innovation. An identified problem is an invitation to a brainstorming party and often that problem is only surfaced in a complaint.

When leaders rollout the red carpet for constructive complaining, you’ll see your team members brighten up like someone declared it’s “bring your puppy to work day.” (Okay, let’s be honest that day can bring in plenty of complaints, too!) They’ll feel heard, valued, and engaged, which is exactly what you want.

So, what’s the best way to complain? Here are 5 ideas to help your complaint land the way you want:


  1. Complain with a Goal. Encourage your team to complain like they’re playing chess, not checkers. Each complaint should come with an aim, not just to let off steam like an over-pressured teapot. (I’m a big hot tea aficionado, and this visual is all too real for me.)



  1. Be Constructive with Complaining: It’s about building bridges not destroying them. Complain to make things better, not just to feel like a demolition expert. If you are really only trying to destroy something, no one will welcome your complaint.



  1. Make Your Office a Complaint-Friendly Zone: Employees should be able to voice their concerns without fear of becoming the office pariah. Don’t make them solve every complaint before taking it to you. That will increase the time before you hear of something important and decrease the efficiency of the solution.



  1. Good Complaints are Not just Hot Air: If complaints are just venting, they’re useless. Show your team that their complaints lead to change, not just increased office CO2 levels.



  1. Complain Positively: Yes, it sounds like an oxymoron, like ‘fun run’ or ‘healthy donut.’ But maintaining a balance between raising issues and keeping the overall vibe positive is essential.  You can complain but still be positive about it. Personal attacks are almost always inappropriate and counterproductive.


The common misconception around complaining is that it’s a negative habit, a behavior that only serves to destroy morale and create a negatively-charged atmosphere. But if channeled correctly, complaining can be an incredibly powerful tool. It can ignite change, fuel creativity, promote open communication, and create a healthier, honest culture.


More quotes on complaining:













Image Credit: Omar Preswich

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