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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Management

First Office Problems: 3 Things Managers Should Never Complain About

Being a manager can be a pretty awesome gig. You have staff that looks to you for guidance, you’re given more responsibility and opportunity, and you probably have a pretty nice paycheck.

Of course, all that comes with its fair share of challenges. And, it’s only natural to feel the urge to blow off a little steam once in a while to your colleagues—or to your employees.

This is a bad idea for many reasons, not the least of which that you’re supposed to be a model of leadership and professionalism. But what’s more, I often hear higher-ups grousing at the water cooler about things that, well, really aren’t doing them any favors with their employees.

The truth is, what drives you to the brink might seem to your employees less like of a relatable problem and more like that of the first-world variety. On that note, here are three topics managers need to stop complaining about—now.

“I can’t believe I have to fly coach!”

OK, first of all, nobody likes flying coach, so moaning about it to others is a bit obvious. But what managers often fail to realize is that when they’re complaining about less-than-first-class travel arrangements in front of employees who rarely make it out of the office for lunch, let alone get to go on a business trip, they can come across as elitist and ungrateful.

Take my very first boss, for example. As the regional manager of our firm, he traveled a lot and rarely flew coach—an expense our company paid for willingly. Until we were bought out by a larger firm. One of the first cost-cutting measures the new guard rolled out was nixing his automatic upgrading. Another was to lay off our receptionist. Understandably, our boss was upset, but when he marched down the hall to complain to his assistant—who was now also covering the reception desk—none of us were particularly amused.

Managers are expected to maintain a certain level of decorum in the office, and that means being respectful of your staff. Sound off about your (truly) first-world problems to employees who are saving their quarters for laundry and eating ramen to make rent, and you’ll earn a reputation of being disconnected and disrespectful.

“My office is so small!”

If you have an office, you have something most people in the office probably don’t—four walls and a door. It may not sound like much, but when your employees are dying for—or heaven forbid, actually need—a little privacy, any office is an upgrade to what they’ve got.

I’ve had the unfortunate luck to have always worked in an open-office environment, where only a few people have offices, and everyone else is sentenced to “the pit” in the middle. At one job, one of our managers would open his door every day for the sole purpose of complaining to the rest of the group about how cramped his office was, how thin the walls were, or how bright the natural light was. (That’s right, the natural light that the rest of us never saw.)

Pretty much everyone loathed him for that, which came back to bite him a few years down the road. He was being considered for a new role at the company, and the team was interviewed about his likeability and “fit” with the rest of the office. And, you guessed it—hardly anyone had anything nice to say.

Yes, if you get sent to the dank, dark office in the basement, you probably do have some justification to kvetch. But before you do, just remember who your audience is. Chances are, they’re already feeling a little exposed—and reminding them of what they don’t have just rubs salt in the wound.

“I can’t believe I have to go to this fancy lunch with the CEO. Again.”

Trust me, I know working lunches can be the absolute worst. But, when you think about it, having direct access to the powers that be is a pretty sweet perk of the job. And there are probably a few people in your office who would give their copying arm to rub elbows with the CEO.

This happened to me when I first started out as a manager and wasn’t yet in the “executive club.” My boss had regular meetings with the CEO and constantly complained about having to hang out with “management.” Yet, after every lunch, he’d come back smiling and excited about an idea he was able to float past him casually, one that would’ve been much harder to bring up in an office setting. As a result, I felt like the divide between the CEO and myself—and my boss—only grew, and I felt less and less comfortable approaching either.

Regardless of whether or not you’re keen on spending yet another lunch talking shop with your boss, keep in mind that you’re setting an example for your team. Try to buck up, and at least pretend you’re eager for the opportunity. When your employees see you hold your boss in high regard, it helps establish a level of trust and respect that everyone deserves.

Whether you sit in a cube or have a view from the top floor, there will be days when you just feel like getting a few things off your chest. Believe me, I feel you. Just make sure you’re hyper-aware of whoever’s within earshot—not everyone will sympathize, and the last thing you want is for your staff to perceive you as one of those “first world problems” types. Keep the complaining to a minimum, and if you just can’t help yourself, make sure you’re among trusted peers.

Photo of frustrated man courtesy of Shutterstock.