Registering complaints

 I receive periodic messages from the Leadership Center at The Ohio State University, and last week one arrived in my mailbox that hit me square in the middle of a bad attitude. The article was titled “Three No Complaining Tools,” and as often happens, it felt as if whoever decides what to send out had been listening to my thoughts and comments about our current predicament and thought I needed an attitude adjustment. Is it possible that the RSS feed can pick up on your attitude through the way you attack your keyboard??? Here’s the message, verbatim:

Three No Complaining Tools

 From Gordon, J. (2008). The no complaining rule: positive ways to deal with negativity at work. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.


  1. The But – Positive Technique. This simple strategy helps you turn your complaints into positive thoughts, solutions and actions. When you realize that you are complaining, you simply add the word but and then add a positive thought or positive action.
  2. Focus on “Get to” instead of “Have To.” Too often we complain and focus on what we have to do. Instead, shift your perspective and realize it’s not about having to do anything. You get to do things. You get to go to work while so many are unemployed. Focus on what you get to do.
  3. Turn complaints into Solutions. The goal is not to eliminate all complaining. The intent is to eliminate the kind of mindless complaining that doesn’t serve a greater purpose and allow complaining that is justified and worthwhile. Every complaint represents an opportunity to turn a negative into a positive (Gordon, p. 49).


So, feeling a bit sheepish at being caught in the middle of another complaint, I decided my therapy would be to apply the three steps to the things that were bothering me that day. So here is a neophyte’s effort at turning complaints into some more productive energy:

 “It really concerns me that staff complain openly about the changes we’re going through with the people we serve, but I need to remember that complaining is better than apathy or refusal to do their work.”

 “It sure is disappointing to have to deal with another proposed budget reduction, and this one actually might stick. But we get to test our redesign to see how quickly we can adapt to the changes we’ve prepared for.”

 “I wonder if there’s a way I can tie my work more directly into one of the target programs so I can better understand what staff are trying to accomplish and at the same time help give some visibility to the changes we are enacting across Michigan.”

 Okay, so I need some practice at this. And I suspect quite a few of you can do a better job of this than I have, so please share your suggestions in the comments section of my blog. And by the way, if you would like to subscribe to OSU Leadership Center’s regular mailings, you can do so by going to their registration site. It’s really very helpful!


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2 responses to “Registering complaints

  1. Natalie

    Thanks Tom, this will serve as an excellent start to our Environmental Quality Workgroup webcast this afternoon. We’d love to have you become a team member; we can utilize your fishy knowledge on water quality.

  2. Wanda Jean Repke

    Very good advice Tom. I’m so excited about the work that I will get to do I can hardly contain myself. My team members are the very best and I feel so privileged to get to work with such kind, caring and talented professionals. But…here is the but….now I’m becoming consumed by the “not knowing” once again. Having no information about how decisions will be made – who will have a job and who will not – leaves it open to a person’s mind running wild and crazy.