Expert Blog Compelling advice, stories, and thought-provoking perspectives straight from YourTango's lineup of Experts to you

2 Behaviors That Will Drastically Change Your Career Success


Stop blaming and complaining and become more empowered and promotable. I'll tell you how.

Who wouldn't want to feel more empowered and be more promotable? But if you think it comes down to talent and capability, guess again.

Of course they count. But the two things I am about to share with you have been known to trump talent and capability. And they fall into the category of attitude.

These two behaviors can be powerful allies in reaching your highest potential in your organization and can boost your confidence along the way. The behaviors I am talking about are avoiding complaining and avoiding blaming.

1. Avoid Complaining

Why do you want to avoid complaining? Well, when you complain, you're effectively engaging in disempowering yourself.  

I've heard many people talk about the importance of "venting" and that nothing beats a good complaining session to help relieve stress and make them feel better. Trust me, the relief you get is temporary, and the price you pay will be high. Does this sound like a good idea?

Think about it: A complaint telegraphs to the world that something is wrong and that YOU have no power to fix it. It's like raising your hand in a room full of people and saying, "Hey, look at me. I'm powerless!"

When you get into the habit of complaining, your telegraphed message gets stronger and more believable to others. You start to get a reputation as the person who can't get anything done. Is this what you want?

If Something's Wrong And I Can't Complain, What Can I Do?

Excellent question. First, let's make a distinction between two varieties of complaints. The first type of complaint is global.

I'm referring to a complaint about, say, the weather, the federal government, "the way people are," etc. In other words, complaints for which you have no ability to find a solution.

In this case, here is what to do: Do not give voice to the complaint. It has no ability to do anything other than to make you feel more disempowered.

The second kind of complaint is one that is within your sphere of influence to resolve. When you recognize such a complaint welling up within, instead of giving voice to it, make a request of someone who could help you resolve the problem.

An example might be that you have extra workload and really need a technical expert to help. Instead of exhibiting a put-upon attitude with your colleagues, go to your boss and work out a solution together. Make a request!

A complaint of this nature is not bad because you have identified something that is not working and needs fixing. The problem is, when you "marinate" in it and keep talking about what's wrong, you get pegged as a complainerand rightly so.

Identify the solution you want, then get yourself into action and request the help you need.

Success Story About Avoiding Complaining

"Cindy" had been trying to get promoted to senior vice president for two years. Frustrated by being passed over, she asked several colleagues for feedback to see if she could get some insight. It was unanimous: Cindy was seen as a complainer.

This came as a surprise because Cindy had no awareness of it. (See my blog on 6 Ways to Increase Your Self-Awareness). She decided to put attention on stopping her complaining behavior to see if it changed management's perception of her promotability.

Three months later Cindy's promotion came through. When she asked her boss, "why now?" He said that he had noticed a big change in her attitude and had decided that promoting her was the right thing to do.

Even without knowing the specifics of Cindy's developmental effort, her boss had certainly been aware of the impact that Cindy's attitude had had on the way he perceived her effectiveness.

2. Avoid Blaming

When you blame, you leave a lot of unnecessary wreckage in your wake. No good can come from blaming others. If you are the boss and are doing the blaming in the hopes of "motivating" your direct reports, give it up; it won't work.

Blaming will have the exact opposite effect and will do more damage than you can imagine. Because blaming is such an invalidation of the human spirit, it actually impedes people's ability to think and diminishes their ability to be optimally effective.

Being blamed has happened to all of us at some point in our lives. Think back to that memorable moment when you were on the receiving end of someone's wrathful blaming. Did it inspire your best work and most creative effort? I rest my case.

If I Can't Blame, What Are My Options?

Whether you are the boss or the direct report, when you blame, you are trying to shift the problem off of yourself and onto others. This solves nothing because the problem still exists. So what could you do instead?

Try this: First, examine your own culpability in the matter. Then talk with other members of the team, as a team, so that you can better understand what and how the problem occurred.

Together, brainstorm potential solutions, making sure to include the right people in the discussion. After implementing the solution, schedule a lessons-learned meeting to identify how you will move forward and specifically what you agree to do to keep similar problems from happening again.

Success Story About Avoiding Blaming

A well respected and former senior executive I know who used to head up a large technical organization, told a story about his direct reports showing up in his office, ashen-faced.

They told him about a technical error that they were responsible for that would have some serious consequences, if it was not fixed. There was a time crunch, so implementing a fix in a timely manner was going to be challenging.

Without a hint of blame in his reply, the executive thanked them for letting him know and asked if they had a plan for implementing the solution. He then asked to be kept informed. He told me that he could see a visible wave of relief sweep over their faces.

His implicit message was: I trust you, you're competent, you're creative and I believe in your ability to get this done. Of course, they did. And after that, they were willing to follow him to the ends of the earth.

This is the kind respect and loyalty not blaming others can naturally engender. And in this case, the response from the senior executive actually served to build a stronger, more cohesive team.

In Summary

It's hard to believe that two little-discussed behaviors could have such an impact on our fate. Yet, it happens more than we know.

The insidious behaviors of complaining and blaming weave themselves silently into the fabric of our daily lives and in short order, they begin to inform others' perceptions about who we are.

If you will commit yourself to mastering the behaviors of avoiding complaining and avoiding blaming, you will have achieved something truly great as a leader or manager. These behaviors will also lead naturally to a more empowered and more confident you. And this will support you in reaching your highest promotable potential.

Alexandra Ross is a business coach and has a passion for coaching women to empower themselves in the workplace. She may be reached by visiting her website

This article was originally published at Reprinted with permission from the author.


Explore YourTango