Your Boss Is Not Your Therapist: 4 Reasons Not To Complain At Work.

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Your Boss is not your Therapist: 4 Reasons not to Complain at Work.
By Tammy Stone, The Psychology of Business

It’s great you feel comfortable to vent, or occasionally even complain to your boss. Just remember that your boss is not your therapist. When you complain, you are adding your stress to your their plate. A good boss will worry about you, your performance, and if you have the tools you need to succeed. Hearing you complain all the time will only make them think you can’t handle things on your own. 

1. Learn How to Manage Stress.
When management hears about problems in the workforce, they immediately go into problem-solving mode. A complaint on their desk is a task they want to squash immediately. If you are running into their office complaining about every little thing that happens, their patience and faith in your abilities will quickly run out. With “40% of workers [reporting] their job was very or extremely stressful”, it’s natural for complaints to arise (Workplace Stress). Check your actions to see how often your “go to” solution is to talk to your Manager. Your actions could be telling him/her you can’t handle difficult situations. Expressing your feelings about a situation to a coworker, friend, or someone outside of the business first.

2. Can You Handle More Responsibility (A Promotion)?
Your boss should never be your first option for a solution. Treat your boss as if they are the expert who should only be consulted on an ‘as needed’ basis. Their time is valuable and should only be utilized when absolutely necessary. There are exceptions for sensitive data and escalated issues, but choose your problems wisely. Show your boss you can deal with the hard situations without them. A recent study shows 52% of millennials list “career progression [as] their top priority [when choosing a job]” (Millennials at Work). If career progression is your goal, then create an impression that you are capable on your own. If your boss thinks they have to help you through most of your workload, you’re setting the standard that you can’t handle higher levels of stress. Complaining is never worth the loss of a possible promotion.

3. Focus On The Solution.
Consider what your boss knows about the problem that you don’t already know. Do you really need their authority or expertise to solve the problem? Most of the time, we are looking for approval and validation that we don’t need. A study about organizational stress found the “relationship between negative events and mood, [were] approximately five times stronger than that between positive events and mood” (Forbes). This means when negative events occur, we are more likely to dwell  on it than positive ones. An easy first step is to think about what you would say if your Manager brought this exact problem to you. How would you advise them to handle it based upon your knowledge?

4. Ask Yourself, Before Asking Them.
Finally, even if you just complain less often, that’s a step in the right direction. Think quality vs quantity. A study on workplace conflict showed that U.S. employees spend 2.8 hours a week dealing with conflict (Entrepreneur.com). Imagine if a Manager has 5 direct reports that came into his/her office for every issue. That’s almost 40% of their week spent listening to their employees complain. Answer these questions before interrupting someone’s day.

  1. Is it time sensitive? If you can take a few days to think about it, then just sit on the information until you come up with your own solution.  
  2. Who is the best person to talk to? Are you giving more work to your boss instead of finding the solution yourself? Even if you need help, the solution does not always have to come from your manager. Think about what other options are available.
  3. Are they going to care? There are different types of bosses; some that care about all the details of how you solve a problem, and some who don’t care about the details and just want things done. With everything managers have going on in their day, is your problem and/or solution going to be something they need to hear about?

Time efficiency is extremely valuable in the workforce. For your own success, work things out without your boss. Next time you think you need to talk to them about a problem, consider what the benefit is. Even if you have a friendly relationship, nobody likes to hear someone complain all the time. The old saying goes ‘if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem’ (Eldridge Cleaver). Spend more time focusing on how you can fix issues versus talking about the issues themselves.

  • Brian

    Good read. Thanks.

    • The Psychology of Business

      Approve.