How to voice concerns without seeming negative 

No one likes to complain but inevitably your job will sometimes bring up things that you don’t agree with and  times you might have to deliver negative feedback or a difficult message to someone.

We explore steps you can go through to ensure that your opinions and concerns are heard and that they’re received in the best possible way.

7 steps to complaining constructively

  1. Time your concerns appropriately
  2. Be specific
  3. Be objective and lose your emotional attachments
  4. Come with solutions in mind
  5. Focus on the positives
  6. Leave the decision up to the boss
  7. Get support if necessary

Time your concerns appropriately

First it is important to ask yourself if your concern is really worth bringing up. Is this something you can act upon yourself to make a positive change without having to involve other people in the process? If it is something that needs addressing then do it sooner rather than later. Arrange a meeting with the relevant person so you have a dedicated time and don’t have to talk in front of others.

Be specific

Writing things down is a really good way to make sure that you have all your ducks in a row. However clear things are in your head, it’s easy to jumble them up and lose your train of thought when you start speaking to someone.

Justify your opinions – don’t just say that you “don’t like it” and tailor what you’re saying to who you’re speaking too. One size doesn’t fit all and it’s not natural to deliver bad news or critique people so consider your best approach for the individual you’re talking to before you start.

Key takeaway: Having written notes will show that you’ve put some real thought into the matter.

Be objective and lose your emotional attachments

Try to remain objective about the situation and remove emotion. Don’t get caught in a cycle of assuming the worst outcome – it’s really unlikely that this will actually happen so don’t torture yourself with worry. What advice would you give to someone else who was in the same position? – take that advice.

Be honest, confident and professional and give your concerns in a tactful and logical manner. Delivery is key for how your views are received and the response you’ll get. Many people will unconsciously clam up if they feel any form of confrontation so be reasonable and don’t use any aggression.

Key takeaway: Being overly-critical is not likely to help you get the reaction you want as the other person will become defensive.

Come with solutions in mind

Describe the problem and its implications and then go on to talk about the possible solutions and benefits. Be prepared to answer the question “what would you do?” Bring your ideas and present them in specific steps that can be taken to improve and how you think this can be measured.

Focus on the positives

By focusing on the possible solutions you’ll demonstrate that you’re not being negative and are more likely to get people on board with your ideas as they can visualise the benefits.

Key takeaway: Accepting responsibility for the outcome will really demonstrate your commitment to ensuring success.

Leave the decision up to the boss

If you’re making a case for change to your manager, acknowledge that it is their call to make. Frustrating as it can be if you don’t agree, there may be other financial or practical reasons why they make decisions that might not seem reasonable to you.

Get support if necessary

You don’t have to do it alone. Ask for advice from a mentor, friend or trusted colleague and really listen. If you have a concern and you are really not sure what to do about it then ask for help from your (or another) manager or HR.

Key takeaway: Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

In summary

If you have concerns in the workplace there is a process that you can go through to make sure you have the best chance of getting heard. By writing down your ideas and presenting them in a professional manner you’ll elicit a better response and if you’ve already thought of some possible solutions you’ll ensure that you don’t come across as negative. Don’t put it off but do plan it correctly.

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Sophie Cross is a freelance writer and marketer specialising in business and travel. She is the editor for London Revealed magazine and her clients include Group and Merlin Entertainments.

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