Saving Private Ryan gives us a remarkable clue about how to complaining about your working conditions. Captain Miller’s (Tom Hanks) squad has been complaining about its mission’s goals. And then, Private Jackson complains in a different way. A way which pleases Hanks character.
Private Jackson: Well, from my way of thinking, sir, this entire mission is a serious misallocation of valuable military resources.
Captain Miller: Yeah. Go on.
Private Jackson: Well, it seems to me, sir, that God gave me a special gift, made me a fine instrument of warfare.
Captain Miller: Reiben, pay attention. Now, this is the way to gripe. Continue, Jackson.
Private Jackson: Well, what I mean by that, sir, is… if you was to put me and this here sniper rifle anywhere up to and including one mile of Adolf Hitler with a clear line of sight, sir… pack your bags, fellas, war’s over. Amen.
If your working conditions are bad, if your goals are unclear, please complain, but keep your complaining creatively directed towards a solution.
After that, Captain Miller is asked by his men, about his own complains.
Private Reiben: Oh, that’s brilliant, bumpkin. Hey, so, Captain, what about you? I mean, you don’t gripe at all?
Captain Miller: I don’t gripe to *you*, Reiben. I’m a captain. There’s a chain of command. Gripes go up, not down. Always up. You gripe to me, I gripe to my superior officer, so on, so on, and so on. I don’t gripe to you. I don’t gripe in front of you. You should know that as a Ranger.
Private Reiben: I’m sorry, sir, but uh… let’s say you weren’t a captain, or maybe I was a major. What would you say then?
Captain Miller: Well, in that case… I’d say, “This is an excellent mission, sir, with an extremely valuable objective, sir, worthy of my best efforts, sir. Moreover… I feel heartfelt sorrow for the mother of Private James Ryan and am willing to lay down my life and the lives of my men – especially you, Reiben – to ease her suffering.
It’s not that Captain Miller never complains to his superiors. We can see him complaining during other sequences in the movie. But he won’t complain in front of his men (or to them).
If you’re leading a group, never, ever complain to them. Let their morale be as high as possible. Let them know you are controlling the situation. Try hard to let them understand the goals and to overcome the constraints and the conflicts. Complain to the ones that must find a solution. Complain to your boss. Then complain to his boss.
Anyhow, if you love what you do and believe in it, please, start complaining. Right now.