THE BLOG
10/21/2014 03:02 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

How to Complain Effectively: How to Productively Make Your Concerns Heard

2014-10-21-mentoring.JPGNo one likes a whiner. Complaining without a purpose or intent to help or affect change is just whining. Sometimes whining feels good. Our friends are often apt to oblige us and sympathize, but it generally doesn't have a place at work. That said, there comes in time in every person's worklife when it's necessary--and desirable--to complain to improve a situation and improve your productivity. Done properly and to the correct person, complaining doesn't have to be a negative event.

If you honestly want to improve your performance, any leader worth his or her salt would be interested in hearing from you. Your immediate superior is usually the best option when you need support from a co-worker, a person in another department, or the superior him- or herself. If you require physical resources, go to the appropriate personnel in the right department. If you want your desk reconfigured so you're not facing the door, you might have to hit up facilities. If you want to inquire about flexible work hours, HR might be a good place to start. Or if your laptop is dinosaur-slow, your best bet might be IT.

There's a right way to complain, if you decide it's necessary:

1. Determine whether your issue is truly worth complaining about. If no one can do anything about it or it's a minor issue you can easily work around, forget it. "The principle of the thing" is a distraction, unless the issue is truly important. Instead of cursing the darkness, turn on your smartphone's flashlight mode.

2. Always have a solution when you complain about something. ASK specifically for what you want, explaining why what you have (the current situation) isn't working. Surprisingly enough, people complain about not having things they've never officially requested. Instead of "whingeing," as the British put it, ask. You may get it without any drama at all. People can't read your mind, so don't assume they know what you need.

3. Have all your ducks in a row before you present your request. Plan out what you intend to say in a logical fashion. Consider it a mini-presentation, where tone of voice, facial expression, body language, appearance, attitude, and proposed solution all serve as critical elements.

4. Present your complaint in a reasonable, tactful way, leaving emotion out of it. Make it clear why you feel justified in making the complaint. If your own behavior or lack of action have contributed to the problem, admit it, and ask what you can do to make things happen. Be concise and specific.

If the person you complain to proves unhelpful or nothing happens after several attempts to correct the situation, only then should you escalate the complaint. Going above someone's head is a dangerous thing, especially when that someone is your boss. Co-workers tend to have long memories, and some aren't particularly forgiving. So be sure to put on your kid gloves and be on your best behavior if you escalate.

*Photo provided by Microsoft

© 2014 Laura Stack. Laura Stack, MBA, is America's Premier Expert in Productivity™. For over 20 years, Laura has worked with business leaders to execute more efficiently, boost performance, and accelerate results in the workplace. Her company, The Productivity Pro, Inc., provides productivity workshops around the globe to help attendees achieve Maximum Results in Minimum Time®. Laura is the bestselling author of six books, with over 20 foreign editions, published by Random House, Wiley, and Berrett-Koehler, including her newest work, Execution IS the Strategy (March 2014). Widely regarded as one of the leading experts in the field of performance and workplace issues, Laura has been featured on the CBS Early Show, CNN, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times. Connect via her website, Facebook, or Twitter.