MCD Partners

Memphis Daily News
Overcome A ‘Culture Of Complaint’
November 24, 2016
By Dr. Mary C. McDonald

Have you heard about the man who was stranded on an island? Finally, after many years alone, he was found. His rescuers noticed three structures built on the otherwise deserted island.
Pointing to the first, they asked, “What’s that place?”
“Well,” he said, “that’s my house; that’s where I live.”
Motioning to the second, they said, “What’s this other place?”
“Well, that’s my church. That’s where I go to church.”
Impressed, they asked, “But what’s this third structure?”
“Oh,” the man replied, “that’s where I used to go to church.”

If seems as if there is always something wrong with where we are, where we work, where we shop, where we worship, or even where we go just to relax. We’re not happy because it is not the way we want it to be.

We live in a stressed-out, complaining world where it is all too easy to foster a culture of complaint when it becomes a habit, an attitude of complaining. The complaining is rarely followed by solutions or positive steps in the right direction to make things better.

The culture of complaint is counterproductive anywhere, but at the workplace it creates an environment of hostility and divisiveness. It usually starts with just three people: the murmurer, the grumbler and the naysayer. They, in turn, go on to form a negative alliance that can turn any positive, productive environment into a dysfunctional landscape.

It may be subtle at first: a negative remark; a questioning of authority’s judgment, ability or personality; a method of triangulation that draws you into a secret conspiracy of dissent. “Don’t you agree?” “Don’t you see it?” And before long we find ourselves somehow entwined in a very thorny situation, lured in by a culture of complaint.

In working with a multitude of clients, I have seen the lengths some naysayers will go to ensure dysfunction at a workplace. In one office, a small group of grumblers mislabeled the employee awards being announced by the boss at a ceremony, as a joke of course. What’s funny about that?

So, what should you do about it? First, confront those who seek to lessen the value of your experience at work. Ask them what they are going to do to improve a situation. How can they make things better? There are often those who hide their own faults and insecurities by focusing on the perceived faults of others.

Don’t sit among the cynics or engage in those watercooler grousing sessions where all you hear is what other people have done wrong. A healthy organization has the courage to address all that lessens it and throw off the culture of complaining and the negative influences that divide.

When you go to work today, be courageous!

Contact Dr. Mary C. McDonald, a national education consultant, at 574-2956 or visit

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