Complaining at Work

Complaining at Work

During your career, you will probably experience some unfairness, some nepotism, and some favoritism. You will see employees who are considered “the golden girl or boy,” and others who are labeled negatively. It is hard to know what or how to do something about these situations.

Note that I am not talking about issues like sexual misconduct or discrimination. Those are so serious that they require action with the help of your boss or human resource department.

Instead, I am referring to issues like who gets overtime, who gets selected to lead projects, or who gets to attend conferences or to travel to business meetings at great locations. These can be difficult issues to address. You don’t want to appear whiny or petty. You also don’t want to accuse your boss of unfairness or favoritism.

What usually happens is that you only express your opinions to like-minded colleagues. The issue becomes part of the office rumor mill which is usually ineffective and negative. What can you do instead?  Begin with trying to turn the complaint into a conversation. At a staff meeting, you and your colleagues can calmly raise the issue of overtime and note that you want the boss to know that you all are willing to cover the overtime assignments.

When a new project is being discussed, volunteer for the assignment, or find a time to speak with your boss and express your interest. If someone has already been identified for the current project, let your boss know that you would appreciate the opportunity to lead a future project. If your boss indicates that she doesn’t feel you are ready to be the team lead, ask what you can do to get ready and suggest that perhaps you could be a co-leader first.

With regard to business travel, a question at a staff meeting about how people can volunteer for business travel or apply to attend a conference should be sufficient to raise awareness of the inequity. Once again, don’t point out the obvious (“Sheila got to go to two conferences,” or “Joe got to go to Hawaii”).

If these suggestions don’t work, and an unfair situation such as overtime continues, you and your colleagues may need to be seek assistance. This is where your human resource manager or union representative can be helpful.

Most importantly, regardless of the issue, make certain you maintain your professionalism. Anger, sarcasm, criticism of colleagues, and petty behaviors reflect poorly on you and will not advance your cause. In fact, negative behaviors can override and invalidate your legitimate concerns.

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