Why Whining Won’t Get You Anywhere

Whining. Just writing the word makes me cringe. Whining is a truly unattractive characteristic. It is unattractive in children and it is even more unattractive when adults partake. One of the reasons why whining is just so unattractive is that it is ineffective and it can make a brilliant leader look like, well, like a blithering child.

Given this, why is there so much whining in the office? Ron Ashkenas, a senior partner at Schaffer Consulting and author of several books on organization change and effectiveness, wrote in a post for the Harvard Business Review:

The reality is that all of us whine, complain, blame others, and try to avoid responsibility. It's part of the human condition. Nobody likes to clean up problems caused by others — or admit that they've created problems themselves. We also try to preserve a positive self-image and we go to great lengths to get others to perceive us positively as well. Given these basic human dynamics, most of which are unconscious, it's often easier to talk to colleagues about what somebody else is doing wrong. At worst we'll get sympathy. At best, we'll convince someone else to take care of the problem.

Ashkens continued, noting that the current economic environment and organizational structures have made it so that “it's tough to get things done — which leaves people feeling frustrated and in need of a sympathetic ear.” But let's be honest. When your co-worker comes up to you whining (again) about this or her workload — do you really feel sympathy?

Let's look a little closer at what Ashkenas said. Essentially, whining is used as a tool to “blame others” and “to avoid responsibility.” Neither blaming others nor avoiding responsibility are positive traits. Neither of these traits will get you hired nor will they get you promoted. The qualities that will get you that next job, which will get you recognized, and will get you promoted are stepping up, taking responsibility, and taking action — the antithesis of whining.

In his book The Last Lecture, Randy Paush astutely wrote:

If you took one-tenth the energy you put into complaining and applied it to solving the problem, you'd be surprised by how well things can work out… Complaining does not work as a strategy. We all have finite time and energy. Any time we spend whining is unlikely to help us achieve our goals. And it won't make us happier.

Want to be taken seriously? Want to be effective? Want to be successful? Stop whining.

19 comments on “Why Whining Won’t Get You Anywhere

  1. _hm
    December 6, 2013

    A person whins at one place or other. I have seen nice guy at office, whins with spouse and family members. A person very good at home, whins at office and other places. It is difficult to get well balanced and ideal person.

  2. Ariella
    December 7, 2013

    @_Hm true, people need some outlet. Some find it on FB or Twitter. If they get too whiny there, though, I unfollow. I remember unfollowing someone whose tweets all seemed to consist of complaints of headaches, etc.

  3. _hm
    December 7, 2013

    @Arielaa: I offer comfort to a person who whins. May be they have some other reason burdening them. But over time, they do return to normal behavior. It is really difficult to in-depth understand intricate phychology and it is better to help them come out of it.


  4. Ariella
    December 7, 2013

    @_Hm well, it depends. some will respond with something like “*hugs*,” but I recently saw someone on FB give a tough love response, telling the person throwing herself a pity party to move on. 

    If I give the impression that I'm heartless, that's really not accurate. I do offer sympathetic responses to people who do single posts on being sick and the like, but I don't care for those who constantly whine “poor me.”

  5. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    December 8, 2013

    I think of a well known quote: that which we fear, we create. Whining about how bad things are really does make things worse in reality.

  6. _hm
    December 8, 2013

    I may have quintessence for delaing with whinning and tough people. I love to deal with them when no one is ready to go near them. I am generally able to tame them and bring them to main stream – it is like taming of the shrew. It needs lots of patience and takes time and sacrifice. But I consider that to be my contribution to society.


  7. ITempire
    December 8, 2013

    Frank, loved the blog. It was inspirational. It is so often the problem in organizations that people keep whining about their problems. However, many people are overworked and sit after office hours due to too much pressure of achieving deadlines. Some day they are bound to break out and start whining. 

  8. Ariella
    December 8, 2013

    @Hailey there is something to do that. I've heard of studies in which people told to smile actually felt better than those who were not.  See

  9. t.alex
    December 8, 2013

    Whining, it might be just a relieving process so people can feel better 🙂

  10. Lavender
    December 8, 2013

    Sometimes, people whine just out of habit and has no meaning. Such whining seems to be just a way to relax. 

  11. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    December 17, 2013

    @Hm so other than patience what's the secret to your success? There are plenty of whiny people to go around so i suspect you may need help… Also, afterwards, does it seem worth the effort?

  12. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    December 17, 2013

    @Ariella, I have read that too…and as a bookend to my other quote, here's one on the positive side: “Be the change that you want to see in the world.”

  13. ahdand
    December 17, 2013

    @Hiley: I think its worth but still nothing can be said until its being fully evaluated. I think evaluation is something which has to be done on a constant basis prior and after.   

  14. _hm
    December 17, 2013

    @Halley: I look this as an opportunity. Part of this is once nature which in turn is learned from someone – mainly your parents, teacher or alike. This is also one of very effective tool for long term relationship development. Over time you become very good friends and the same person is very helpful, if required.

    Whining or not, I consider every person I meet to have minimum of two good qualities. And I must learn these two good qualities from him and remember him.


  15. _hm
    December 17, 2013

    @Halley: I may also suggest some form of meditation and perhaps lots of reading in general is extermely helpful to analyze and resolve these type of situation. 

  16. Matt Staben
    December 17, 2013

    Whining is always misplaced.  When a minion whines, I remind them they could be lifting Criblock.  These are 100lb concrete flat-arches that are linked together to hold back hillsides on Southern California freeways and elsewhere I'm sure.  The hell of Criblock is, however, is that as the day wears on, the pile grows higher.  The laborers clamber down over the previously laid Criblock, lift up another, and carry it back up the hillsides.

    I ask: Seriously, would you rather be lifting Criblock, or would you rather just sit at a desk and wave a magic mouse and exercise fingers?


  17. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    December 17, 2013

    @HM, I agree with you that people often come up to the level of the expectations. I too always look for the upside (My favorite game is “What do i have and why is it what I want”) and i think that when you always look for a way to help it creates a better environment.

  18. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    December 17, 2013

    @Matt, I may have to borrow that… My least favorite whine is “That's not fair.” My kids know not to ever say it in my presence. My response: If your life were fair, your life would be a lot harder than it is right now.  You provide an excellent example. I live in CA so i'll have to go look for those Criblocks. (I'm in the north but i have to think we have them around here some where)

  19. Eldredge
    January 2, 2014

    @Hailey  – So true – the concept of 'fair' is always warped!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.