It’s only natural for to complain every now and then. Expressing frustration is a great way to vent and air out problems before they fester and turn into resentment. On occasion, complaining can even be productive.
Sometimes, however, complaints turn into a time drain. I’ve been thinking about the nature of complaining ever since I read Jon Gordon’s book, The No Complaining Rule. In it, he discussed some shocking stats, like the fact that negativity costs the U.S. economy between $250 and $300 billion each year in lost productivity.
What we often see as harmless complaining between employees is actually doing a lot more damage than we realize. Since having my eyes opened by Jon, I’ve used the tips and ideas shared in his book to change up how I do things in my own company, as well as sharing it with my team of nearly 1,000 employees around the world.
By actively welcoming more positivity in the workplace, I hope to make my company not just more productive but also a happier place to work for everybody involved. After all, happy people are known to be better citizens and tend to spread more kindness.
Here are a few ways you can welcome more positivity in your own workplace:
Break the habit.
Complaining has become a habit in corporate settings — one that so many don’t even realize they’re doing. Becoming aware of the problem is the first step toward solving it. Set a challenge with someone you work with closely, perhaps an assistant or business partner, to tell each other whenever one of you starts complaining. It’s much easier for someone from the outside to notice these things than it is for us to see them ourselves at first.
You’ll likely be surprised by how often it happens, but don’t feel discouraged. As time goes on, you’ll notice instances of needless complaining, and it will be almost second nature to catch yourself before a complaint slips out.
Now that you can see how often you’re complaining more clearly, don’t force yourself to simply stop voicing concerns altogether. Instead, dig a little deeper. Why do you want to complain about this problem? What prompted you to voice something in a negative way?
Often, we complain because there is something else going on behind the scenes. Perhaps something from your personal life is affecting your mood at work. You might not like how a project is going, so you are looking for flaws and problems every step of the way.
Excessive complaining is, more often than not, a symptom of negative thoughts and habits, rather than a genuine problem with the matter at hand. You need to understand why your thoughts are being expressed as complaints if you’re going to be able to reduce how often you make them.
Replace complaints with requests.
Another way you can reduce workplace complaints is by switching up the language. The next time you feel the urge to complain, reposition the complaint in your mind. Is there a solution to the problem? Can you think of a request you could make from someone that would solve the issue? Better yet, is there something you can do yourself to make the issue go away altogether?
The more proactive you can be, the better. Thinking about solutions and end results is a much more positive attitude and one that will greatly improve productivity in the workplace. Instead of wasting time and energy discussing ongoing problems, skip over this negative step in the process. Go straight for a solution and save yourself from the draining act of complaining.
Lead from the top.
As with so much in business, real change starts from the top. As a business leader and role model in your company, use your actions to show a positive alternative for people to follow. People will always rather follow a clear example, rather than be lectured on what to do and what not to do.
Once you’ve practiced the steps above yourself, teach them to your employees. Sharing the experience as a positive change that you’ve made in your own life is both collaborative and constructive. After all, starting off a new drive toward positivity needs to come from a positive place.
Start by explaining what you’ve been trying to achieve in team and company meetings. Talk about how you noticed complaining and negativity in your own behavior, and be honest about how you’ve found progress so far. Opening up positive and solutions-focused conversations around this topic will only usher in more positivity, helping the whole process get moving.
I would also highly recommend reading Jon Gordon’s book to dive deeper into the topic. Start small and foster more positivity within yourself, and you’ll be amazed at how far it can take you and your company.