Jill read my post about why constant complaining is so toxic in the workplace and then experienced a moment of synchronicity:
I broadly agree with your post, except that, well, right after reading it, my feed reader served up a post from another blogger I enjoy reading called “The Right to Complain“. She and I are both academics, and there’s certainly a culture among many academics to complain about the system we’re in. I’ve found your blog, among others, helpful in trying to figure out what it is that I’m not happy about in my job, and what I am happy about, and which things, if any, I want to change.
Anyway, coming just after each other like that, two posts on complaining that argue very differently. Dr. Crazy argues that academic jobs are extremely difficult, because of the large investment in time and money you’ve put into getting there (thank you Norway for better funding), the large amount of “invisible” work that goes into research, publishing, administration etc, and your lack of choice in where you live, among other things (I’m lucky, I work where I want to live). Yet people tend to think it’s a cushy job, “you only work 12 hours a week”! (that’s the classroom hours).
If you have time, I’d love to hear your opinion after reading her post. Could there be a kind of complaining that’s not directed to someone like the boss, but – well, with an idea that perhaps one should complain to the people who can change things, and those people are sometimes yourself and your colleagues?
Thanks for the link, Jill. That is indeed two very different views on complaining – at least at first glance.
I agree with Dr. Crazy that we all have the right to complain. It’s not like I can tell anyone else that their problems are not worthy of complaining about because what seems a molehill to me might well be a mountain to them – and vice versa.
In fact, if you want to increase workplace complaining, all you need to do is to tell people not to complain because their problems are so trivial they have no right to complain. That‘ll get them complaining for sure :o)
So it’s not really about whether or not we have a right to complain (if somethings’s wrong, you have the right) it’s about how we choose to complain. As I wrote in my post, I believe that there are two fundamentally ways to go about expressing your dissatisfaction: Constructive and destructive.
Broadly speaking, constructive complaining leads to change and destructive complaining leads to more complaining (more here).
I also disagree with her assertion that “if nobody complained, then nothing would ever change, then none of those sucky things would ever be eradicated. ”
Dissatisfaction and complaining is one way to go about changing things – a deep appreciation of what is and a positive desire for the future is another, and in my experience, more effective way of bringing about change. I often refer to this quote by Patch Adams which points to this dilemma:
Change that is deeply effective and positive presents a paradoxical challenge.
On the one hand, there needs to be an appreciation and acceptance of how things are in the here and now. On the other hand, there needs to be an active intention to make things better.
Nothing needs to change, and everything can improve. This is the way to avoid the two extremist traps of activist’s frustration or pessimistic complacency.
– Patch Adams
However I agree totally with Dr. Crazy’s final statement that “if one can’t bitch on a blog, where exactly can one bitch?” :o) It’s like blogs were made for it.