At work, people would usually rather complain than actually be productive
My friend, the legendary executive coach Marshall Goldsmith, interviewed more than 200 of his clients and what he discovered matched previous research he read, but found hard to believe: “a majority of employees spend 10 or more hours per month complaining — or listening to others complain — about their bosses or upper management. Even more amazing, almost a third spend 20 hours or more per month doing so.”
That’s a lot of time spent complaining — but if you’ve ever worked in an office, you can probably believe that stat, give or take. Now yes, it’s based on 200 interviews. Not a large sample size. But this is also a series of topics people aren’t openly usually that willing to discuss, so you gotta find pockets of intel where you can.
Why so much complaining?
- It’s relatively easy to do.
- It makes us feel heard.
- Work is a very emotional place because it’s made up of people different from us, yet we have to spend 10–12 hours/day collaborating with them.
- As it’s emotional, it’s also lacking in priority often.
- People often aren’t respectful of others.
- Since most of work is hiding from real communication (what do you think email is?), complaining — which is a behind-the-back way of hiding from actual communication — fits well in the picture too.
How we can complain less?
- Promote more empathetic people into management.
- Promote more women.
- Encourage people to be direct and go to the person they’re complaining about, explain what they did, and try to resolve it.
- Hire more for soft skills.
- Care about creating a workplace that isn’t a cesspool of everyone saying how awful “Brad” is.
- If there are 1–2 managers getting complained about the most, FIRE THEM. Their numbers don’t matter. FIRE THEM.
- Spend some time trying to fix communication in your workplace.
What else might you add?
Oh, and yes — look at these stats about how productive people are in most white-collar offices. Complaining > productivity. For sure. That’s sad, but as long as the company is producing revenue and making numbers, no one with authority ever cares.