February 25, 2011 | File under: Advice and Lessons • On the Job
People love to complain. It’s a coping mechanism, I suppose, but sometimes it can get out of hand. Not only is complaining contagious; it is nearly always unproductive and can even be counter-productive, leading to a crippling lack of motivation in nearly everything. And after a while, listening to the same complaints over and over again becomes very irritating to other people. Especially when the complainer appears unwilling to do anything to change the situation giving rise to the complaints. At that point, complaining simply becomes a waste of time.
I used to be one of those people that complained constantly that I hated my job. I complained at work to my empathetic friends, I complained at home to my husband and I complained to my family when I spoke to them over the phone. I spent so much of my time thinking about work and complaining that my free time away from the office never felt like free time—-I carried my misery with me wherever I went and allowed it to overshadow the experiences I should have been enjoying. It was not a healthy way to live.
Very quickly, my negativity grew tiresome to others, and to myself. I was tired of ruminating over things that would never change, people who would always be difficult to deal with, and situations that were unavoidable evils in the profession I had chosen. My family was tired of counseling me out of my funks, a process that sometimes monopolized large chunks of the weekend days I was supposed to be enjoying. It was a state of mind I could not sustain.
I realized that the only way I would be able to make peace with my working situation was to stop complaining. I needed accept the unpleasant realities of my job for what they were and resist allowing them to consume me. Or take the initiative to change, or seek assistance in changing, the aspects of the job that were bothering me. If I could not do that, I had to find a way out of my job so I could free myself from such a negative force in my life. I tried the first option for a while to no avail. The second was not a worthwhile endeavor. Finally, I came to the conclusion that the only way to truly able to defeat my impulse to complain and ruminate was to leave my job.
After I made the decision to leave, which was a while before I turned in my resignation and left, a huge burden was lifted from my shoulders. Although my future was uncertain, I was filled with more hope than I had ever felt with my stable and lucrative job. I was freed from feeling the constant impulse to complain and I felt more present than ever in the leisure activities that had once been so tainted by the spillover effects of my work. I felt like I was reclaiming my life.
I also became more aware of the complaining that was going on around me at work since I was no longer an active participant. I experienced a taste of my own medicine and realized how ridiculous my complaining must have seemed to those on the receiving end of my constant bitching. The gripes I heard were the same ones that I had been hearing for years, with minor variations in their original form. Perhaps by deciding to leave I had surrendered any hope that things would improve, but in the end I saw the complaining crusade as a battle with no end.
My inner cynic tells me that I would have always struggled to resist the pity party in my job had I remained. It is just too easy to cope with an unpleasant situation by complaining about it than trying to appreciate the few positive attributes the situation offers or taking the initiative to address aspects of the job that can be changed. If adopting a better attitude about a job is simply too difficult and the triggers for one’s complaints cannot be changed, then it only seems logical to seek out a better situation. Complaining may lower one’s quality of life more than the job itself; seeking out an alternative that lends itself to less negative talk is a benefit that goes beyond monetary calculation. The solution is simple: put up, do something, or shut up.