How to complain the right way

On average people complain between 15 to 30 times a day, writes Will Bowen, author of “A Complaint-Free World”. Complaining can be annoying and tiring but if done in a constructive way, it can be positive as well. But how to complain the right way?


A Korn Ferry article explains how complaining – at least in the workplace – can become a useful feedback instead of a whining that everyone hates.

The big difference according to the author is that the complaints need to be constructive. “In other words, if you’re not bringing important issues – accompanied by a solution or additional insight – out in the open, then you’re just whining,” the article states and delivers four ways to make a complaint more digestible:

  • Package your complaint like a sandwich

This means that a complaint should start with a positive statement, followed by the criticism, and then finish with another positive statement.

  • Don’t complain about what you created

This makes absolute sense of course but many people seem to forget along the way that an idea stemmed from them and all of a sudden, they are complaining about a decision or a situation they created in the beginning.

  • Notice your surroundings

This is a useful little thing to remember so be sure no one is in the toilet cubicle when you start complaining about your boss in the bathroom and make sure to be careful to choose your “complaining partner” carefully – not that the information that you share gets leaked out in the open quickly.

  • Banish the “but...”

Conversations and discussions are quickly hampered in their flow as soon as one of the conversation partners comes in with the word “but”. When one person introduces an idea and another jumps in with “but”, this automatically brings in something negative and usually leads to arguments. The Korn Ferry article recommends replacing “but” with “and”: “That’s an interesting idea, and you might also consider…”