Two figurines in business suits with arms crossed looking confrontational against a lime green background.
Image: © Kelly marken/

Yes, you can complain at work without being rude – here’s how

12 Jul 2019

Do you have something you need to get off your chest, but you don’t want to burn bridges? Don’t worry, it’s possible if done correctly.

For most people, complaining is a bit awkward. It’s the type of thing that, in theory, you’re all for – who doesn’t want to stand up for themselves when they have been wronged, or something has gone badly? But in practice, it can be extremely daunting, whether it be about a restaurant dish gone cold or a shirt that ripped moments after it left the store. Even if you’re in the right, complaining can be tough.

Making a complaint in a professional context feels like even more pressure, as the result of that social interaction can be tied up with your career. Cue anxiety, which inspires you to push your issue down inside instead of dealing with it.

When something has gone wrong work – be it that a sound idea that was overlooked or a colleague who was particularly brusque – you may think that pushing through and not mentioning it is the most prudent thing to do.

Yet letting your grievances go unaired hurts everyone. It’ll hurt you by sowing the seed of what may eventually bloom into resentment. It’ll hurt your employer by possibly allowing faults in how your organisation operates or toxic employee behaviour to go unnoticed. It will hurt both of you if the resulting tension means that you leave your role.

So how can you ensure that your complaint goes over smoothly? First, try to be dispassionate. Consider your argument from a logical standpoint, not an emotional one. A great way to ensure you are not too inflamed is by taking a beat to think about how you’re feeling. Do not immediately lash out in anger – that’s a sure-fire way to say something you may regret.

Gather as much supporting proof for your claim as possible and be sure that you are clear on what kind of result you want to achieve. Are you looking for an apology, a policy change or something else? Have that clear in your head before proceeding.

To see all the remaining steps in making sure your complaint at work is heard without causing the recipient to bristle, check out the infographic below, brought to you by NetCredit.

Complain without being rude infographic

Infographic: NetCredit

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Eva Short
By Eva Short

Eva Short was a journalist at Silicon Republic, specialising in the areas of tech, data privacy, business, cybersecurity, AI, automation and future of work, among others.

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