“I hate to be a kicker, I always long for peace, but the wheel that does the squeaking is the one that gets the grease.”
The above is the actual quote (often commonly stated as “the squeaky wheel gets the grease”) attributed to American humorist Josh Billings. It’s from his poem “The Kicker” describing his frustration with being polite and not getting his way with the authorities. A kicker, by the way, is also known by a more common name: a complainer.
Most of us have heard this saying before – and some of us have taken to living it as part of our credo whether at work, home or play. How many of us have seen pro athletes who seem to have it all (in terms of fame and money…who knows where things stand in other aspects of their lives) whine about some form of treatment they’re getting by the press or management? If you haven’t, check out the sports section of any popular news site or (gasp!) major print publications; you’ll find them in there if you look.
Sure, life is tough. Working for a living can make it tougher if you don’t enjoy what you do. But guess what? Complaining rarely makes it better. Often it makes it worse.
Before I delve into this further, understand that making yourself heard can be different than complaining. Like anything else, you have to be selective when you do this. In fact, I’d recommend making yourself heard when you can. Not too much, though. There’s a fine line between offering your opinions, suggestions and ideas and running your mouth off whenever you feel someone of authority is within earshot. Some things to keep in mind that make for a good barometer when comparing making yourself heard and complaining to consider include:
- How long have you been with the company? Longer term employees are often more influential with their suggestions and have the ear of management than newer ones.
- What is your position with the company? Your standing in the workplace plays an important role in determining how often you can offer up insight.
- What’s your performance record like? A good rule of thumb can be summed up like this:
Outstanding = Offer away!
Good = Gracefully give…
Average = Act accordingly and angle yourself first…
Poor = Put up first; shut up for now…
One thing to consider is that those who complain end up having to be compliant more often anyway. That’s because complaints rarely offer a solution when bringing up the problem. Offering up solutions brings more opportunities. You don’t have to acquiesce as much because you’re seen as a part of the effort as opposed to being, well, opposed to it. It’s always a good idea to bring a solution to the table when you bring up a problem. Doing so puts your offering in a better light. Sure, the offer may still get rejected, but your superiors will note that you at least have some foresight and initiative when coming to them with something you deem as an issue. That’s never a bad thing on both fronts…they’ve gained some insight on you and (hopefully) they’ve offered some insight into the operations of the company that will allow you to come forth with better and more realistic solutions the next go-round.
Steve Pavlina, widely known as one of the premier personal development bloggers on the web, says this about complaining:
People who complain trap themselves in a reality that constantly gives them more to complain about. Life keeps harshing on them. Their luck is below average. They never get any real breaks. Unfortunate circumstances, seemingly beyond their control, keep manifesting. It seems totally unfair, but it isn’t. The complainers are merely witnessing the fulfillment of their own requests. Every thought is an intention, and complainers habitually intend what they don’t want. So it makes perfect sense they live in a reality congruent with those thoughts. The complainer may tell you their reality is causing their complaints, but it’s more accurate to say their reality is reflecting their complaints.
He also goes on to say that complaining can be incredibly addictive – which is without question. You more often than not hear the term “constant complainer” than “occasional complainer” when talking about someone who complains – even just a bit. That’s because, as with many other things, perception can often be perceived as reality to some. This can be especially dangerous when looking at complaining. Even though you may only complain occasionally in your eyes, others may see it as a far more regular occurrence. Drawing attention to your dwelling on the negative is just going to bring you more negative. Oh, and it’ll bring it everywhere…professionally and personally. Isn’t that a “kick” in the teeth?
I’m not saying you need to be compliant.All in all, complaining is pretty much useless. What isn’t is how you phrase your suggestions, recommendations, ideas and thoughts that turn them into something useful for all involved. Leave the kicking to the athletes – it’s what many of them do best.
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