We hear people complaining about their life, and their jobs all the time. Complaints form part of our daily landscape. Recently, a twenty something Yelp employee named became internet-famous after writing an open letter [of complaint] to her CEO. The open letter went viral, and she was fired a few days later, not to the surprise of many. Did she achieve her desired results? Probably not.
Today, I am writing an open letter to Talia, and to all of us… myself included. Because we have all been like Talia, at one point or another. We have all complained, and felt the victim. In fact, we live in a complaining society, and it’s a real problem. Although she has been visibly criticized on the internet, and she has taken it to an extreme.. Talia is not unique, or alone. The truth is:
Guy Winch, PhD and author of The Squeaky Wheel, recognizes that: as a society, we complain too much, but more importantly we don’t complain effectively… We’ve lost a sense of what complaining is for; instead, we use it as an exercise for venting and it has consequences.
Yes, we need to make changes in the workplace, but venting alone will not fix it. It’s time we take ownership, and direct our complaints more effectively, because:
We hear people everyday and everywhere complain about their jobs: the unreasonable boss, long work hours, restrictive company policies, uninspiring office space, demanding clients, and the list goes on… (When was the last time you complained about your job or heard someone nearby complaining?) I know Talia is not the only one.
In fact, studies have shown that complaints are pervasive in the workplace: 70% of Americans work with someone who is always complaining. This kind of complaining hinders productivity, and worse of all, it doesn’t help us achieve our goals.
Yes, you heard it right. A half hour of complaining every day physically damages a person’s brain, according to research from Stanford University: exposure to negativity peels back neurons in the hippocampus- the part of the brain used for problem solving and cognitive function. This affects the way we retain information, and our ability to adapt to new situations.
Just listening to someone spread a nasty rumor at work — for more than 30 minutes leads to elevated cortisol levels that hamper synaptic connections and speed up cell death. Complaining clearly isn’t working for any of us: we are not getting the results we want, and it’s ruining our health.
Here is how you can stop venting, break your addiction, and effectively direct your complaints:
If you forget any of these steps, just remember that complaining with a clear purpose and vision, can be very productive.
There is undeniably much work to be done to transform the workplace: to create equitable, supportive, and empowering work environments for all. But next time we complain to the universe, let’s do so effectively.
If you found this article useful, and if you know other ‘complainers’ in your life, please share with them. If you have any other complaints left after reading this article, please do send me an email at: [email protected] Would love to hear your stories.