Skip to main contentA logo with &quat;the muse&quat; in dark blue text.
Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work Relationships

How to Respond to Your Friend's (Endless) Work Complaints With Legit Advice

Friends are the best for talking (complaining) to about our jobs because, well, they just get it. It’s also nice having someone who’s a bit unbiased. Often times, talking about the latest office drama, the printer that never works, or the awful brainstorming sessions to someone uninvolved helps put it all in perspective.

But, what if your friend’s past the venting stage and moving full-speed ahead into the seriously unmotivated stage? You’re happy to listen, but after hearing it again and again, you’re ready to offer some advice.

We know it can be a hard place to be in, but your friends are coming to you for a reason. So do your best to give thoughtful, helpful words of wisdom that’ll get them back on the right track (or, well, a new one entirely). Then you can go back to the light-hearted venting that you both adore.

Here are five reasons your friend’s complaining, complete with solutions and easy-to-email links.

1. She’s Feeling Unappreciated

Feeling unappreciated is a pretty awful feeling, and it can completely diminish someone’s work ethic. What’s the point in trying hard when no one notices, anyway? Or, at least that’s how your friend sees it. Maybe her boss is constantly giving negative feedback. Or, she delivered a killer presentation last month on behalf of her team and is still waiting on that “thank you” from her co-workers. To put it simply, frustrated is an understatement for her.

Solution: Explain That She Needs to Give a Little to Get a Little

Sometimes the best way to deal with feeling unappreciated is to start by being more appreciative in the office. Yes, we know she may be quick to question this (or think you’re simply crazy), but remind her that the more she hands out compliments, the more likely it is that people will start sending them back her way. More often than not, people aren’t purposefully withholding appreciation, they’re just busy and forget to give it.

2. His Boss Is Really Mean

Your friend just finished a week’s worth of work and nailed a recent project, but his boss still found a reason to yell at him in front of a team meeting. She sends him a scathing email almost every night. Oh, and she isn’t letting the fact go that he was five minutes late to work last week. Can you blame the guy for feeling unmotivated?

Solution: Tell Him He Needs to Manage His Manager

Unfortunately, we can’t change bad bosses—we can only change how we react to them. The first step is to diagnose out what type of (bad) boss your friend has. Start with this list of the four types of toxic bosses, plus how to actually handle them, here.

For the most part, it comes down to identifying the manager’s problem behavior, then taking steps to prevent it. For example, if being late once really is an issue, suggest that he show up 15 minutes early going forward. If he’s dealing with a micromanager, share these tips for nipping that problem in the bud.

Finally, offer some comic relief and remind your friend that at least he doesn’t have it this bad.

3. She Has Too Much on Her Plate

She can never make it out to happy hour or to grab a quick lunch with you because she’s swamped at the office. Her co-workers aren’t much help, and her boss only continues to pile more on her to-do list. Heck, just thinking about her job stresses you out—and you’re not even working there.

Solution: Teach Her About Boundaries and Delegation

Sometimes, we can be so caught up in our work that we don’t even realize how much we’re taking on—and then we just, well, we crash. The solution? The surprisingly hard task of learning how to delegate.

Luckily for her, we’ve got her back. Send her these links:

Of course, if there’s no one on the team for your friend to delegate to, that’s a different problem altogether. In which case, offer these ideas for asking to lighten your load without looking like a slacker.

4. He’s Not Being Challenged

You keep hearing that he feels like he’s wasting his time doing busy work all day, or that he should’ve been promoted a year ago because he’s capable of a larger workload. Or, perhaps his boss doesn’t give him any responsibility past an entry-level position—and he’s been there for years!

Solution: Suggest He Speak With His Supervisor (and a Sponsor)

Instead of Googling: “How to feel more challenged at work,” suggest that your friend have a serious talk with his boss about increasing his responsibilities and expanding his role. This article and this one describe exactly how to do it.

If he’s done that and nothing has changed, it’s time for him to think outside of his boss. Suggest looking for a mentor or sponsor within his company who can help guide him in what he needs to do to get ahead. (More on that here.)

5. She’s No Longer Passionate About Her Job

Your friend has hit a major bump in the road—she’s asking you if her job is even worth it. She doesn’t feel like her industry fits into her long-term plan anymore, or maybe she hates the work she’s assigned daily. Even worse, she’s unsure if she’s on the right career path at all. Cue panic. While there’s no way for you to figure that out for her, you can help guide her in the right direction.

Solution: Tell Her to Stop Worrying About Passion

No, I’m not suggesting that she give up. But that she should, instead, check out this article on what you should be asking yourself instead of “What’s my passion?” Reassure her that it’s OK (and normal!) to change your mind about what you want to do with your life, and encourage her to start exploring things outside of her current job that might help point her in the direction of what’s next. (Or, take the first step for her and sign her up for this free class on discovering what you’d really like to be doing.)

We know how tough it can be to support someone when his or her motivation is at an all-time low, but, hey: That’s what friends (who are smart enough to read The Muse) are for.

Photo of tough love courtesy of Stefano Carnevali / Shutterstock.

A logo with "the muse" in white text.