Complaining Is Not Contributing
Home 5 Blogs 5 Complaining Is Not Contributing

MHSc in Translational Research

What does it mean to contribute to improving the educational experience for yourself and others? What does it mean to contribute? Becoming a contributing member of any team or community is something that is often repeated by people across the political spectrum and management styles.  What does it mean to be a contributing member of a team? There are likely many ways to think about positively contributing to the active agenda of a team, but here are some of my ideas.   

Contributing means taking initiative.  It is practiced by people when they see something that needs to be done and they decide to do I–without being told or forced to do so. Taking the initiative to do something out of your drive not just to change your circumstance but to contribute to the improvements of the circumstances for others.  It is one thing to be able to see and point out things that are frustrating and bothersome—most of us can do this sort of navel-gazing pity party.  It is quite another to recognize areas that need improvement and take action to find ways to resolve them.   

Complaining about problems is often a cry for empathy, a need to be acknowledged and supported.  But it is often received as criticism and sometimes even a sign of negativity and personal attacks.  Rather than asking for empathy by complaining, reframing the ask by asking for support to change the situation may be a more effective strategy.  Looking for opportunities in problems, rather than opportunities to point out problems, allows for a more productive dialogue about people contributing to improving a situation, executing on ideas, and accomplishing goals that may benefit the team or community, rather than just focusing on what is not working.  Contributing to figuring out how to make things work, changes the point of view from the negative experience of one or more people to a call to action to improve situations in ways that could benefit others.  

Start small. Often looking at problems we start going down a deep rabbit hole where one grievance links to another and another, until there is a tornado of issues that need to be fixed or the entirety of the team, the fabric of the community will imminently collapse.   

Think long-term. Sometimes it’s easier to accept short-term inconveniences for longer-term gains.  Sometimes when you find yourself in a situation that seems to be spinning out of control, perhaps it’s time to step back and ask yourself which of the problems are temporary, which are longer-term, which are extreme, and which are mild annoyances.  Reflecting on what is most grievous and prioritizing your contributions allows you to stop throwing everything into one basket of disgruntlement and to strategically focus your efforts on addressing the most immediate concerns so that you can achieve long-term goals.  

Contributing to a team means taking the initiative to improve the situation of the team to be able to achieve its goals.  Contributing is not about being critical, but about critically assessing problems to find ways to address them.  It is about taking personal responsibility to be responsive when situations come up that require ingenuity.  It is about breaking down problems into manageable goals that can help motivate others to achieve more.  It is about prioritizing your frustrations and those of the team to ensure that you and your team can overcome the individual and collective challenges to achieve the goals that will benefit everyone.   

These are complicated processes that require active behavioural changes—the establishment of a culture of innovation and improvement rather than continuing feelings of unsupported isolation among community members.  But the shift to prioritize contributing, sharing, and collaborating to solve relevant systemic issues is in effect what we all want when we complain about a situation—support and improvement: positive change—so why not start with contributing ideas to enact that change, to change the narrative, rather than get stuck in a negative cycle of isolation, frustration and complaining? That is what it means to contribute, to take personal initiative to improve the things you see that you could help improve, and in doing so, contribute not only to your own experience but the experience of others.