Stop the Complaining to Save Your Company Culture

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How much easier would your work-life be if no one ever complained? If managers didn’t have sales reps complaining about the number of appointments being set for them or canvassers complaining about how nobody is answering, work would be a lot less stressful and a lot more enjoyable, retention would go up, engagement would increase and as a result you’d experience revenue growth.

Enter: The No Complaining Rule

The No Complaining Rule is a book that was written by Jon Gordon in 2011. It provides positive methods of dealing with negativity at work, and is based on the premise that there are way more subtle, and far more dangerous, problems than the typical “jerk.” The people you can easily identify as being negative need to be dealt with quickly.

cloud of complaints
While it’s important to deal with these individuals, the far more dangerous threats are the employees whose negativity is much less obvious. These people are like a plague to your organization.

Their negativity casts a cloud over many other people that wouldn’t otherwise have such a poor outlook. When it’s less obvious, it grows and spreads quickly. Before you know it, you have a toxic environment and a company culture with land mines everywhere. Having an environment that no one wants to be in comes with a hefty price tag.

The Costs Associated with Negativity:

Negative Emotions are Associated with:

  • Greater stress
  • Less energy
  • More pain
  • Fewer friends
  • Less success
  • Increased risk of heart attack and stroke
  • Decreased life span and longevity

Prevent the Typical Complaints

As a company, it’s your responsibility to create and promote the type of environment you want to have. A few of the main reasons for negativity are poor communication, a lack of information and constant change without explanation. Help yourself by doing as much as possible to be transparent and forthright in your company.

Complaining is a common form of negativity, and it’s easy to do because it usually makes us feel better. People label it as venting or simply not “hiding how they feel.”

While it’s important to always be honest and have the ability to express your thoughts and concerns, it needs to be done with the proper attitude. Companies can promote and reward this type of behavior instead of responding to complaints that are negative and won’t have a positive outcome.

Many psychologists claim that it is healthy to vent, which is generally complaining. It may be healthy to vent, but it still needs to be done in the appropriate setting. They didn’t say you can just rattle off your rant whenever you want, to whoever you want.

The 2 Main Reasons People Complain:

  1. They are fearful and helpless
  2. It has become a habit

The Impact of Complaining

Complaining is destructive to ourselves and annoying to those around us, and it’s merely an outlet for negative thoughts and attitudes. The author of The No Complaining Rule labels these individuals as “energy vampires” because they require so much attention. They spread negativity, adversely affecting morale and job performance.

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Remember that the U.S. loses roughly $250 – $300 billion annually in production due to negativity. If you question whether this is true or not, add up the hours your team loses in a given month.

Each time there’s drama in the office or you see reps huddling and discussing how much they hate a rule or situation, count how many people there are in the conversation and time it.

Don’t break it up, don’t tell them to get to work, just sit back and watch so that you have a true understanding of how much negativity is costing you.

The end result is that your team is making fewer attempts, getting less leads and closing a smaller number of deals than they should as a result of the attitudes you allow in your organization. Perhaps more importantly, it affects the attitude and morale of your culture, making people less happy and excited about having to go to work.

In addition to the decrease in production, you’re losing buy-in from the salespeople in your organization who would have otherwise been happy. The negative attitudes who don’t want to be there (that you’ve let stick around) are dragging more than just themselves.

They’re taking the people with them who could be quality producers if they weren’t being sucked in by that black cloud surrounding them.

The Goal: Reduce Complaining

Obviously eliminating complaining altogether is extremely difficult, and change is even more challenging. The No Complaining Rule wasn’t written with the unrealistic hopes of eliminating all complaining in every organization.

It was written to rid companies and individuals of the mindless, chronic complaining, and to turn justified complaints into actionable, positive solutions. The goal of someone complaining should be to inspire change or a better way of thinking and doing something.

The outcome is to leverage the maximum effects of being positive and minimize the harmful effects of being negative. Someone once said, “What we need the most, we resist the most.”

Because the goal is to reduce complaining and find a resolution to the problem, implement a no complaining rule where employees aren’t allowed to mindlessly gripe and moan to their coworkers. Instead, they need to talk about the issue with their manager and present at least two possible solutions to address the problem.

Use this to the company’s advantage when someone does have a complaint. It can be a catalyst for positive change instead of just a release for negative energy.
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Where to Start

Jon Gordon explains in his book that, “Positive energy flows from the top down in most organizations, and the best way to deal with negativity is to create a positive culture where it can’t breed, grow and survive. Otherwise you spend all your time fighting negativity rather than cultivating a positive culture.”

Instead of complaining, put more emphasis on showing gratitude, praising employees and focusing on the controllable.

Start with yourself. Strictly forbid yourself from negativity by not mindlessly complaining for a whole day. It likely won’t happen on the first try.

Progress to the point you make it a whole day. Then go a week. Once you get to this point, practice implementing this mindset with the colleagues immediately surrounding you before rolling it out the rest of the organization.

5 Tips to Help Complainers Become More Positive:

  1. Make them aware: Most who complain are unaware they’re even doing it. Point it out to help them recognize it.
  2. Become a role model: Set the right example by not complaining and being positive.
  3. Require complaints to be stated as specific requests: Establish your culture as one that won’t tolerate complaining and require them to present at least two solutions to issues they face.  If you bring a problem also bring a solution.
  4. Establish you don’t do well with complainers: Change the conversation to focus on what’s going well.
  5. Determine what’s really bothering them: Complaints and comments are usually a symptom, get to the root of the real problem.

Now It’s Your Turn

If your workplace is stricken with complaining take action steps now to correct this behavior and put in place processes going forward so concerns can be addressed in the proper setting.  At the end of the day, if everybody is complaining then maybe they have a valid point and you need to hear it, soak it in and potentially change more than just a few rules.


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