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Complaining Constructively

By: Thomas Muller - Updated: 23 Sep 2010 | comments*Discuss
Complaint Complaining Rules 	policy And

In initiating positive changes in the workplace a complaint has a vital role to play, but only if it is constructive.

Complaint in the Office

All progressive organisations should recognise that there are two main types of complaint in the work environment; constructive and unconstructive complaint. The former is a useful tool in initiating positive change and helping a team develop, whereas the latter has the opposite effect, and can wreak havoc on a team’s morale.

So if you are unhappy about your work or workplace policy and procedures and want to air your grievance then how do you know whether you’re being a positive force for change or toxic troublemaker? What is the difference between constructive and unconstructive complaint?

Rules of Constructive and Unconstructive Complaining

To put it simply, constructive complaint has a purpose whereas unconstructive complaint is just an excuse to express displeasure about something you either can’t change - such as the damp English summers - or don’t actually really want to. Most people recognise unconstructive complaining under its more common name of moaning.

If you think your complaint is certainly not moaning because it has a real goal then assess whether it is a wholly constructive and positive complaint by asking yourself whether it:

  • Addresses the problem and not the symptom.
  • It has been raised in time so that appropriate action could be taken.
  • Is addressed to an individual that has the power to taken the necessary action.
  • Seeks out solutions rather than someone to blame.
  • Has been aired when the complainant is in a clear and rational state of mind rather than an angry fluster.
  • Has the interests of the whole team at heart and not just those of the complainant.

An Enviable Skill in the Office

Due to its family connection to moaning, many people think that despite seeking change for the better, constructive complaint is still something that one should feel ashamed or embarrassed of. After all nobody likes a complainer, however good their intentions.

This is nonsense of course – being able to complain constructively is an enviable skill in the workplace. In essence it shows that you are able to identify problems and think of solutions, and what’s more demonstrate that you are a smart and dedicated member of the team. What progressive company would fail to be charmed by such valuable workplace skills?

By trying to undermine the positive development of the team, unconstructive complainers quickly develop the opposite kind of reputation, leaving a trail of gloom and negativity in their wake. Ultimately whereas constructive complainers are using their skills to further their career, unconstructive complainers are using their powers of moaning to destroy theirs.

Rules of Constructive Complaining

If constructive complaint is an art then what are some crucial techniques to producing an impressive result?

Although they are usually a signal of something going wrong, it is vital to always treat complaints in a positive rather than negative manner to achieve the best response and result. For example when raising a complaint with your employer it is important not to simply cut down the source of your dissatisfaction but show how it can be improved for the better. The term ‘constructive’ can be seen as referring to how the complaint attempts to build on the problem area rather than destroy it and start again.

Many managers and supervisors are of a sensitive disposition and don’t like being told when they’re wrong. By trashing their policy and procedures you will likely hurt their pride, provoke animosity and scupper the complaint’s chances of success.

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