How Effective is Complaining?

I am sure most of us have experienced people complaining about others not doing their jobs correctly as a way to solve an issue at work and I wonder how effective this really is. I currently work at my dad’s high end electronics company and many people will send out office-wide emails pointing out mistakes people have made to encourage others to not do the same. For example, we have a tool sign in/out spreadsheet on Google Docs where installers, or anyone using tools is supposed to sign in or out the tool when they use it. This is to reduce loss of tools or to find out who is responsible for the loss of a tool. Recently, one of the employees in charge of tools has been sending out emails calling out those who have not been using the tool sign in/out sheet properly or have not been using it when they should have.  It is hard to tell if this has been effective since he has only started doing this recently, but people are still not using the tool spreadsheet as often as they need to be.


Although I cannot determine how effective this has been, recently my mom who also works at my dad’s company has started calling people who had not filled out their schedules at the end of the day and has been sending out emails based on how many people filled out their schedules like they were supposed to. After about a week of this thorough checking in on people, we finally had a day where everyone filled out their schedules. This did not take very long to see significant results. One possible reason that this worked better than the complaints about the tool spreadsheet was because it was done in a kinder way, rather than calling people out to everyone in the office. My mom kindly called people to ask them to fill out their schedule rather than being upset with them. Another possible reason this worked better was because it was more targeted at the people who were not doing what they were supposed to do. Rather than just sending out an email, they actually got a direct phone call which is much harder to ignore. Also, this could have been more effective because my mom is the boss’ wife so people are more motivated to listen to her because she has more leverage in the company. Although this was more effective, it was also more time consuming.


There are many ways to complain to try and get people to cooperate in the workplace, some may be affective and others not. Although some may be affective, they may have other affects as well such as others seeing the complainer in a negative light. However, sometimes it is justified because people need to understand that they cannot continue to slack off because it affects everyone else’s work.


Do you think sometimes complaining is necessary? If so, in what way? If not, why not?


Why do you think my mom’s method was affective?


What are some other methods to get people to do what they need to do?

12 thoughts on “How Effective is Complaining?

  1. Interesting post! I think that it is okay to complain in certain situations. For example, if you are being treated unfairly at work or if you are not pleased with the customer service at a store or restaurant. Complaining in those situations allows for your voice to be heard, and for improvements to be made. However, if you are complaining about everyday things like schoolwork or stress, then it would be unnecessary. I think that everyone has the tendency to complain, it is just acceptable in certain situations.

  2. Very applicable post! In my company, we have a select few individuals who constantly complain to get things done, rather than doing it themselves or approaching problem personnel in the right way. This not only creates a wedge between co-workers, but also exposes feelings of frustration and immaturity. In a professional work environment, dilemmas should be handled with patience and respect. By sending out a company wide e-mail, although at times necessary, for any procedure not being followed, this can soon turn into frustration by employees and a lack of morale as well as productivity.

  3. Complaining at the workplace can be both a good and bad idea. If you are a hard-working employee who does their job right and you continuously see others making mistakes, saying something to a boss can be both good for the business and also show that you as an employee understand and care about the well-being of your establishment. ON the other hand, an employee who is constantly running to management about every little problem will make not only your co-workers not like you, but eventually over time, may also make management not like you. Complaining for the benefit of the business can be affective, but taking it too far can ruin your standing with an employer.

  4. hi. Viginia. This is absolutely attract our attention. In my opinion, i still feel like complaining is necessary. For example, when you having dinner outside, the food is not good, you can ask the manager to change another one for free. If the service is not good, you can let the manager know, they may fire the waiter and hire a new one. So complaining is actually important for you (for get the better service and product), and its also important to the organization(they can improve themself). If you dont complain ever, and they dont correct themself ever, that is why many people need feedback to improve.

  5. I think that complaining can be a good thing in the work place. With that being said there is definitely a difference between good complaints and bad complaints. Bad complaints are ones that do not help facilitate change or that cause unhealthy relationships within the workplace. Good complaints are constructive, encouraging, and help the company or organization grow. In regards to your example, I believe the office wide emails is not exactly a bad complaint but it was delivered in a bad way. The way your mom handled her complaints were more personal, kind hearted, and she helped make the workplace run more like it was meant to be with everyone filling out their own schedule.

  6. I remember reading ‘Freakenomics’ a few years back. The author speaks about how he had trouble potty training his daughter. He then goes on to write how motivated his daughter to potty train herself via incentives. He gave her skittles (her favorite candy) when she went potty on the toilet. She quickly learned and was soon port trained. We humans respond very well to incentives. Your mom incentivized the employees to fill out the time sheets via her position of power. An email sent can be ignored. However, ignoring the bosses wife cannot end favorably. The incentive is to stay out of trouble. Compare that to a faceless email which provides no incentive for action. I think her method was very effective whether she knew the reason or not.

  7. Very interesting post, the title caught my eye right away. in my personal experience, I believe that complaining is okay to a certain extent. I think it is important when there are many people slipping up on a task that everyone is suppose to be doing, just like you talked about in your current work situation. In this instance I think it is appropriate because it will shed light on to a task that people are just overlooking. I do think your mom’s method was a nicer way of approaching the subject. I have had a similar experience with my job just last week, where my manager sent out a store e-mail which was only regarding two-three people. It was a nice reminder that yes we need to be more careful with where our inventory is going, but many of the staff members found the e-mail to be a bother because it was not applicable to them, so I think the way your mom went about it, calling the people directly was a more effective way.
    Some other method could be that you have certain people assigned to different tasks and the tasks being something they are more passionate about. I have done this with my staff members at work, deligate certain jewelry collections to certain people because they are more comfortable in that line, they love working with those pieces, etc. I notice that they perform better in an area they are more passionate about than having to deal with every line we have.

  8. Hey I liked your post and I think I can relate. I saw how you wrote about the google doc sign in sheet for using tools at your company. I understand why someone would complain because if a tool gets lost or goes missing then the point of having that google doc is worthless. People use data and information like that for problem solving reasons like these, so fill out the google doc tool sheet! After reading the story about the way your mother handled the situation, I would have to say that she did indeed handle it effectively. Sometimes being kind about situations like this will bring out the truth, rather than being snappy and critical about it like the guy was in the first situation. Sometimes people are scared to admit their mistakes and being rude and snappy about it wont bring out the truth.

  9. I think E-mails are a great way of communicating in the workplace and they definitely can be effective. Here’s the thing though, after a while, they simply get annoying and I immediately present them to my trash bin (yup, done that plenty of times at work). I get it, at work we all put our little part and we get results as whole. However, if John Doe doesn’t know how to punch in, why should I keep getting E-mails about having to punch in? if he doesn’t want to get paid, hey, that’s his problem.

    Double high five to your mom for that! An E-mail or two seems more than enough to get the groups attention. Now, when it becomes more of a “one on one” then it’s more serious and therefore, in my opinion, yields faster and greater results. Again, your mom’s way was awesome! Hope that guy knows how to use that spreadsheet on a daily basis from now on.

    Who remembers when we were little kids and if we did something wrong we would be put in the almighty “time out”? Times have changed now. At work, if there is a consistent issue, once a verbal and written warning has been issued, the employee could be sent home or even fired. In high school, if we did something wrong, boy oh boy, mom and dad probably had to wake up extra early to meet your disciplinary adviser. Now that we are all grown up and in college, we know how to behave and if you decide not to do homework and study, then say bye bye to you A.

  10. From my past experiences I can say that complaining can go a long way. By complaining I don’t mean screaming and swearing at people to have your way. For example, calling customer service and raising a storm usually leads to getting put on hold for a little while. I believe that when it comes to complaining, you really need to be assertive and respectful towards other parties. Being assertive means to be able to stand up for yourself in a pushy way, but without resorting to anger. You should also know exactly what you want as a resolution. This can also be applied in a working environment, because being assertive can help achieve your goals and ensure fairness for all parties. I really think you’re more likely to be heard if you are reasonable. Great post!

  11. This was really interesting to read, as it is really relevant to motivations of employees and how to properly get work done. I think the reason your mom’s method was more successful was because it was more of a carrot rather than the stick – that is she was much, much kinder in her methodology rather than publically shaming the wronging parties. It is much more time consuming, so it will be interesting to see how much longer she can keep this up. I wonder if it is a permanent solution once she corrects the behavior; let’s hope it is!

  12. This is interesting because it really relates to when I worked in meat packing factory in maintenance. Nobody was filling out wants he work orders correctly when they were taking parts off the shelves. Not doing this showed us overstating what we have in our inventory. My dad is the manager and he just yells at the maintenance workers and that seems to work. It’s a completely different work environment in that factory than it is in a corporate office that I work at now. Nobody complains over email at my job and I’ve never seen anybody get yelled at. I think what your mom did was effective and all you have to do is talk to someone. If people don’t comply after that I would just say it is time to let the person go if they aren’t performing the duties required. I think the solution is simply talking to someone in private.

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