When Should I Complain to My Boss?

Someone on Quora had asked me:

“How do you know when to complain about others to your boss?

I normally like to handle conflict privately (as in when I feel I’m being treated unfairly), without concerning my manager.  However, a number of times in my career, this has backfired, when the other party took their case directly to the manager very quickly, and by the time I’m left to defend myself, I’m often caught off-guard and present my case much more weakly.  My career has suffered on occasion, as a result.

Do managers appreciate employees trying to be self-sufficient, or should I try to be much more transparent in my opinions on others?”

This is how I responded:

I used to be a manager. I used to have people complain to me. Some of it was acceptable, but most of it was just empty banter and gossip. I don’t really care for it much. It’s quite annoying.

My old mentor used to tell me, “Never come to me with a problem unless you come with a solution as well.”

So, if you want to know when you should complain to your boss about what is going on, it is when you figure out a solution on how to handle the situation.

But then again, there are people who aren’t like me. So it also depends what kind of manager this person is.

Most managers I know are covered with paperwork and statistics, so that they can’t even do what they were hired to do, which is manage. These types of managers usually dread conflict, so they do what they can to avoid hearing about conflict like this, as they don’t really know how to handle them. So, a complaint of this nature would be a nuisance and would cause them more harm than good.

Managers who actually manage tend to like to resolve issues like this. However, the approach needs to be done in private, by pulling the manager over into an office and talking to them privately. Most people tend to whine about someone else, but then that doesn’t really bring any grounds to the claim. The best way would be to point out the facts, explain how it affects what you do, and ask what kind of resolution can be made to possibly resolve the conflict, so there aren’t instances like this in the future.

Originally posted on Quora.

Leonard Kim is Managing Partner at InfluenceTree. At InfluenceTree, Leonard and his team teach you how to build your (personal or business) brand, get featured in publications and growth hack your social media following.

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