How to Get What You Want at Work

06/03/2015 04:18 pm ET | Updated Jun 03, 2016
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For some women, "complain" is a four-letter word. True, from the time we were little girls, society did its best to rid us of this nasty habit. Complaining, whining, nagging, ranting, raving -- often all are lumped together in a most unladylike fashion. Unfortunately, this is where society got it wrong. While whining, nagging, ranting and raving may not be the most productive uses of your time, complaining can be. If done efficiently, complaining can help you fight for your rights and get what you deserve. Here's how to keep your cool while doing so.

1. Know why you're complaining. It may seem obvious, but before you complain, you need to know why you are about to do so. Poor customer service? Faulty goods? Low hygiene standards? Broken contract? These are all common causes of complaints, but you'll do best if you can get more specific. For example, knowing that on Oct. 23 the women's room at the chichi café where you take your clients was not only dirty, but had three stalls out of order, is a much better complaint than "sometimes the bathroom is gross." If you have only a vague notion of why you are unhappy or dissatisfied, refine your complaint until you feel more confident in your delivery.

2. Tell it to someone who cares. Once you know what you want to say, you need to contact someone who not only cares about your issue, but has the power to do something about it. Marching into the store that just sold you a faulty laptop and haranguing the men unloading the latest shipment is not going to get you very far. Instead, find out who handles customer complaints and what the preferred procedure is for that organization. Do all that you can to get your complaint into the right hands up front and you'll feel more confident that it's getting the attention it deserves.

3. Write, don't rant. When you complain, make sure you put it in writing. This not only gives you evidence of your complaint, but the process of writing about your dissatisfaction allows you the time to select your words with care and make your point without becoming emotional. Address your letter to someone specific, write with a formal tone and include all relevant facts. Keep your letter polite and succinct, and include a date by which you would like a reply. Treat your letter of complaint as a business correspondence and you can be confident that you will get a reply with the same respect.

4. Remain reasonable. Staying calm is the key to getting what you want from a complaint. You are well within your rights to suggest how someone could rectify a situation, but by keeping your suggestions realistic, you stand a much greater chance of having your wishes fulfilled. For example, if you haven't received your bank statements in a few months, then writing and asking for copies at no cost is a reasonable request that could be quickly carried out. Asking for no-fee banking for life and a public apology from the bank president is not. Remember, complaints are not a way to punish others, but rather to describe a problem and find a suitable solution. Keeping these goals in mind will help you feel confident that you are approaching a matter in the most appropriate way.

5. Be persistent. Complaining is not for the faint of heart. Very often, complaints are "referred," "investigated," "considered," or otherwise ignored. Before you make your complaint, remind yourself that you may need to follow up on the matter for weeks -- or even months -- before you get any real satisfaction. Only start down this path if you are confident that you can walk it till the end. Otherwise you'll likely end up feeling even more frustrated than when you began, which will only give you something else to complain about!