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by Cathy Vandewater | May 15, 2012


It's funny how something as small as a malfunctioning copy machine can ruin your day at work.

We all whine about silly stuff like technology fails--but are we setting a pattern for ourselves when we mindlessly complain?

The Wall Street Journal thinks so--and according to their article today (hilariously sub-titled "How to Stop Whining"), even therapists are starting to rail against our constant moaning and groaning.

It's hard to know if you're being whiny in your daily interactions (try taping yourself during a normal workday if you're unsure), but it's something worth guarding against on the job, at all costs.

Three reasons to consider keeping your inner negative nancy quiet:

1. You're excusing yourself from responsibility

Too much whining is death to your productivity. Your assignment is too hard—it's too much! No normal person could be expected to do this, right? When you complain about your work, it's a way of convincing yourself it's not really your problem.

Of course, it is your problem. And once you've convinced yourself that you're off the hook to do a good job, it will show in your work. Not good.

2. You're irritating everyone

Judging by the how-to guide for deflecting whiners in WSJ, it's safe to assume nobody likes a crybaby. But at work, where people are actively trying to stay motivated and productive, complaining won't just make you annoying--it will earn you liability status .

3. You're wasting time

If time is money, the precious minutes you use to cry and moan about the difficulties of your job or life are the equivalent of setting a dollar bill on fire. That half hour you used to whine to your coworker about a client could have been used to break down your issues with that person and taking steps toward solutions. Rookie mistake.

Ready to change?

Here's what you can do right now to kick-start a more positive way of thinking:

1. Stop, drop, and roll with the punches

When talking through issues with others, ask yourself—do I want to find a solution here, or am I just blowing off steam? If you find you're just talking in circles, stop talking and regroup. While a certain amount of frustration-airing is good, more than a minute or two of no-holds barred whining  can create more permanent thought patterns for yourself.

2. Stop asking "why me?" and starting asking "why not fix it?"

Often times complaining—without intent for problem solving—is an expression of feeling helpless. So next time you find yourself mid-moan, ask, why don't I feel I can do anything about this?

Try making a list of what's holding you back: fear of confrontation? Fear of rejection? Once you've identified your invisible fences, it will be easier to see a way to hop over them.

3. Practice being proactive

Feel the urge to complain? Take a positive step, first thing. Start with the little annoyances-- something as simple as speaking up at Starbucks when you get the wrong order, or letting the office manager know the printer's out of paper will quickly curtail an afternoon's worth of complaining.

Facilitating the little improvments can serve as training for handling the big stuff--and remind you of your own incredible power to change your environment. Without a baseball bat.

--Cathy Vandewater,

Read More:
For a Nation of Whiners, Therapists Try Tough Love (WSJ)
Drink the Darn Kool-Aid: In Defense of Enthusiasm at Work
Dear Class of 2012


Filed Under: Workplace Issues