10 Tips On How To Complain At Work

You must know what to complain about and when to do it, in order to actually make a difference, writes business coach Dawn Metcalfe.

In work, as in life, things don’t always work out how we hoped and people don’t always do what they say; sometimes we need to complain if we want to see things change. Complaining well is a test of your communication skills, which are key to working with and managing others. The key is to get it right and improve the situation rather than make it worse or just moan.

This week, Dawn Metcalfe, brings you 10 tips on how to complain and make a difference.

1) Be sure your complaint is appropriate

Most complaints worth bringing up are caused by broken commitments, stated or otherwise; there is no point in complaining about the weather.

2) Be specific

Specify the real or implied commitment that was broken. Don’t complain about somebody’s “attitude” – you’ll only end up in a “no, I’m not” “yes, you are” back and forth argument. Instead, stick to the observable facts.

3) Understand your role

Try to recognise situations. Are you over-reacting because of something else going on? Or are you, in fact, part of the problem? Maybe there was a misunderstanding about what was supposed to happen? If you have any role admit it up front.

4) Know what you want to change

Don’t go into any conversation just to vent or to blame – it’s not productive. Focus on understanding what went wrong and finding solutions.

5) Complain to the right person

Don’t complain to anyone who will listen – it doesn’t improve your reputation. Talk to the person with whom you have a problem and, only if that doesn’t work, escalate.

6) Get your timing right

Don’t let things fester but remember to choose your moment – five minutes before an important meeting or when somebody is leaving the office are probably not good times to pose your complaint. 


7) Keep your cool

If you stick to the facts rather than make assumptions about the other person’s motives, keeping your cool will be easier. State your complaint and its impact clearly without getting defensive or aggressive. You are more likely to get results when you complain if you stay calm and don’t lose your temper.

8) Tell them how they can make it better

Be specific and clear about what the other person can do to improve the situation.

9) Get commitment to follow through

Ask for their commitment to follow through. Depending on the situation you might want to agree a time to revisit the situation and review how things are going.

10) Remember to praise too

Complain when there’s a reason to, but remember to appreciate the good stuff and tell people about that too.

Dawn Metcalfe is the managing director of Performance Development Services (PDS). Find out more at www.performancedevelopmentservices.com

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