Complaining is Lazy
Complaining is a low level contribution
I've officially been working for 25 years, holy crap how did that happen? That means I've been in 1,000s of meetings and professional human interactions. I actually love human beings and almost always find interacting a pleasure and mostly interesting. Companies are made up of a team of individuals that all fill vital roles to the success of the company. Any company I've ever run has been structured in a "soft" hierarchy, or in a way that everyone is encouraged and can contribute at any level. But that said, it's time I say how I really feel about the true value of how people interact.
Let me just get my main point out there. During a meeting or any human interaction, those that only complain OR devil's advocate are contributing at a very low level. Sentiments offered in the form of complaints or the "what if" devil's advocating does contribute and are a part of the decision making process but in terms of real value, it's just above somebody saying nothing.
What is most valuable?
Because this article is me complaining about complainers, I'd like to make my point by adding real value rather than just complaining about complainers. It's about a ratio or balancing complaining with more valuable contributions. The most valuable contributions are new ideas, solutions and innovations. Think about the last time you complained about something at home, or at work. How easily it pops into your head and rolls off your tongue. Maybe it even felt good. Or somebody makes a point in a meeting, and you say "but what if so and so happens". Again, this just appears in your brain and you say it. It doesn't take any effort or time to prepare.
Here is an example of a solution, and how much thought and effort it requires. I started a new technology company a couple years ago and as with all companies we get daily inquiries with issues using the software. One question frequently asked was, "will your software work with my computer?". This question was diligently answered for a year, and sometimes complaints were made about it. iIt's impossible to know if our software works on everyone's system, someone realized this was a frequently asked question by reviewing support cases and that it was taking up a fair amount of support time. Someone came up with a solution. The best way to take care of this problem or question, was to encourage everyone to download and try the free version first, we put this link everywhere on the site. This cut down and the amount that question was asked and turned out better for the customer. This required someone to step back from day to day operations, be thoughtful, consider the problem, and come up with a solution.
Why don't people provide solutions?
Let's get real for a moment. Can anybody do anything? The answer is no, we all have limitations but we all can achieve more than we are today. There are two main things holding us back from offering more solutions and ideas: laziness and confidence. The bad news is, everyone has these two attributes built-in at varying degrees, but individuals that rise to the top are those that battle and conquer them the most.
Don't be lazy
Let's take lazy first. There is not much to say on this subject other than lazy is no way to go through life. Living a full life is about relationships, and being satisfied with where you're at and what you've accomplished. If you feel you're lacking effort in life it's time for a sit down with yourself and just get to it. Sometimes laziness is just the result of doing something you hate, so you are not being lazy, you're just avoiding it. In this case, it's time to make a change, and please (please) don't start this process with all the reasons you can't. There are lots of great videos and podcasts on motivation and not being lazy, like Gary Vee.
Increase your confidence
Confidence is a tricking one and I know from personal experience coaching people through their careers that more people would "speak up" if they had more confidence. I want to give two bits of advice that I think will help. Prepare and knowledge.
I had a neat experience two months ago while teaching a high school class on leadership. I asked for a show of hands those that had a fear of public speaking, then I upped the challenge to those that had an extreme fear, several kept their hands up. I took a chance and choose an obviously meek girl, who was barely able to make eye contact with me.
I first confirmed she could never imagine speaking in public. Then I asked her what she likes to do. She liked listening to music and drawing. I asked her more about her drawing, like what type of drawing she did, how often she did it and how it made her feel while doing it. It was obvious she it was her "thing". I then asked the rest of the class by a show of hands, how many people don't know how to draw. Of the 25 kid class, 80% raised their hands. Then I went back to the girl and asked her if she could conceive of telling one person how to get started in drawing, and a few simple techniques that would help guide a novice. She easily said yes. Then I asked if she could stand up in front of the class and teach the same techniques? She struggled with the answered but ended up saying yes.
Be prepared and use Knowledge
My point is she has knowledge that others do not, and therefore I was able in 5 minutes to increase her confidence from zero to high enough where she would talk to the class. You can do the same thing using knowledge and being prepared in a meeting that will allow you to contribute with solutions and ideas that will be viewed as higher level contributions. When I'm in a meeting and someone is going through their "just complain" or just devil's advocating routine, it's incredibly obvious they spent no time preparing for the meeting, or didn't give any real thought to the subject. I assume they are lazy.
As an experiment, before your next meeting spend a considerable amount of time researching the meeting subject and set a goal of pointing out one problem and offering a solution. The key is to fully prepare a well thought out existing and significant problem you know exists, then increase your knowledge on the subject to the point where you know more about it than anyone else in the room. Using your preparedness and knowledge, you'll feel more confident and even be able to defend your position when the complainers and devil's advocates rear their ugly heads. Trust me, it will be awesome and you'll want to repeat the process.
Complainers are lazy
When I hear people complain in work or in life, they are either lazy or lack confidence. I just hope that it's more the later than the former.
Do you want to be a high or low level contributor?