Here are more tips on how to voice a complaint at work, from Professor Johny Garner in a Harvard Business Review blog post (“How to Communicate Dissent at Work,” February 4, 2013).
Choose your words. Regardless of whether you’re looking for change or understanding, package your dissent with a solution instead of merely spotlighting a problem. Proposing fixes makes it more difficult for people to dismiss you as a petty grumbler, and it helps move the organization in the right direction.
While negativity is usually frowned upon, most people are open to new ideas and improved outcomes. Your boss and coworkers may even jump at the chance to help you refine your ideas.
Always emphasize the solution when describing a problem. If you fail to present it clearly and forcefully, it may go unnoticed, making it easier for your audience to brush off your dissent. Presentation strategies that emphasize positive opportunities over negative realities always help you plead your case.
It matters who you complain to and the words you choose. Base your argument on solid facts. But you also want to choose your emotions and tone of voice. If you feel driven by an issue because of personal values – that’s important and there’s no reason you shouldn’t express your passion. But tone down the anger.
Choose your tone of voice and emotions. Dissent usually arises from an emotional place. Most of us don’t complain unless we feel strongly about an issue. Nonetheless, emotional venting—however honest or well-intentioned—is rarely the best way to share your thoughts.
In my work coaching executives, I hear a lot of complaints. That presents a big opportunity to sort through the ones that are worth going to battle for and those that are best left alone. You need to choose your complaints wisely.
Think critically about your workplace experiences. Has someone crossed a threshold? What’s been your experience with complaints – both receiving them and making them? As always, I’d love to hear from you. I can be reached here or on LinkedIn.