The Velvet Hammer: 8.16.17

Q: I have been labeled a bit of a squeaky wheel at work adn must confess I am rather impatient, but I certainly don’t want to be known as the perennial office complainer. Any tips for speaking up to my colleagues and boss? 
—Need a More Effective Way to Complain

A: Speaking up and complaining successfully can have significant benefits, such as improving relationships and enhancing our own feelings of efficacy. Some even say, when effective complainers join forces, they often have the power to change the world. On the other hand, grumbling at the office should be for a purpose, not just to vent.

Here are a few tips: Effective complaints need to be concise, fact-based and directed to the right person at the right time. Be clear about what you want and then direct your concern to the person who has the power to fix it. Instead of ranting, try to write your thoughts down first. This can help defuse your emotions as well as help you articulate your issue(s) more clearly. Stay positive. Start by saying something like, “I always look forward to our staff meetings.” Then turn to your complaint focusing on the current issue at hand (not last month’s staff meeting, which is ancient history). Try serving up your complaint with some humor. Your colleagues or boss are much more likely to take your side if you crack a joke about your own impatience. Just make sure you don’t come off as sarcastic. Finally, read cues to keep yourself in check. Pay attention to your colleagues’ body language. If their arms are constantly folded or they regularly are looking away when you address them, perhaps it’s time to stop complaining and start listening.

Q: I just turned 63 and am thinking of making a career change, but I’ve been told opportunities for older workers are pretty much nonexistent–especially in a high-paying position. Maybe I should file for early retirement. Any thoughts?
Feeling Too Old for Prime Time

A: According to national economists, older workers with experience and education not only have a competitive edge, but they also are landing jobs later in life because of their greater work experience. The reality is, baby boomers are getting jobs with better pay, status and working conditions than prior generations of older workers. In fact, older workers are playing a more vital role than ever before. Most academic studies show little to no relationship between age and job performance. And some research shows that in jobs that require experience, older adults have a performance edge. Since 1995, the number of people age 65 or older working full time has more than tripled. And, Americans in their 50s and 60s make up a growing share of successful entrepreneurs. Your chance has not passed you by. Seize the day!

Joan Lee Berkman is a marketing and public relations consultant. If you have a question for Joan, send it to