The No Complaining Rule

I’ve read a number of books by Jon Gordon and have never been disappointed.  His books are quick reads, but always inspirational with powerful, positive messages.  I recently read The No Complaining Rule: Positive Ways to Deal with Negativity at Work.  Who doesn’t encounter issues of complaining, whether it’s your spouse, a colleague or even yourself?
Complaining is very prevalent, however, the negativity it spreads is like cancer.  In Gordon’s book, he shares the cost of negativity:

  • Negativity costs the U.S. economy between $250 to $300 billion every year in lost productivity according to the Gallup Organization.
  • 90% of doctor visits are stress related, according to the CDC, and the #1 cause of office stress is coworkers and their complaining, according to
  • A study found that negative employees can scare off every customer they speak with–for good (How Full is Your Bucket? by Tom Rath).
  • Too many negative interactions compared to positive interactions at work can decrease the productivity of a team, according to Barbara Frederickson’s research at the University of michigan.
  • One negative person can create a miserable office environment for everyone else.
This list could go on, but I’m sure you get the point: Complaining breeds negativity, and negativity makes it difficult to accomplish anything. So, how do you handle the Complainers?  One could imagine handling complaining this way…

Gordon’s book is all about putting The No Complaining Rule into effect with suggestions to do instead of complaining (replacing a bad habit with a better practice):
1. Practice Gratitude
2. Praise Others
3. Focus on Success
4. Let Go
5. Pray and Meditate
(The list with descriptions can be found here).

The most memorable part of the book for me was an explanation from the “yard guy” on how he eliminates weeds. Instead of attacking the weeds with chemicals he uses an organic mixture that “creates an environment where the good grass can grow healthy and strong.”  This allows the grass to grow and spread to the point that the weeds get crowded out and can no longer grow.

What does this “organic mixture” look like in schools?  For the adults, I see this as building on teachers’ strengths, creating an environment in which teachers are constantly learning together and from each other.  Teachers share new ideas, or read some of the same books together, and even observe each other’s classrooms to help improve the teaching and learning in their own classrooms.  For students this is also building on strengths and positives, versus focusing on wrongdoings and consequences.  For many schools this is being done through PBIS (Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports) or character development programs.  This year our school is going to use the “Bucket Fillers” theme, which I thought of the entire time I read The No complaining Book.  We already have a positive culture in our building, but I am excited to see what this theme will add to it as we focus on praising others and celebrating our success.

I would highly recommend anyone read this book.  You can find additional resources here whether you have read the book or not.  And I challenge you to take a Complaining Fast. Start with just a day and then try a week of No Complaining!  Focus on the things you “get to do” instead of “have to do” and turn your complaints into solutions.

This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. Doug Barry

    Our building leadership team read The Energy Bus and are rolling out our learning to our entire staff this school year by creating monthly activities around the “10 Rules for the Ride of Your Life.” A few of us listened to him speak this past week at the School Administrators of Iowa conference and he stated that more people have heart attacks on Monday morning at 9:00 A.M. than at any other time of the week – we need to stop complaining and stressing about our jobs and remember why we got in to education in the first place. Thanks for the post as we begin another school year!

  2. Mr. Powers

    Thanks so much for sharing this post and resources Jessica!
    Amazing post. Not sure I even need to read the book now. Haha!
    I will be using and sharing this for sure.

  3. Maureen Devlin

    There needs to be a place for venting, letting it out and then dealing with it. Complaining often derives from real issues, problems with no place to share the issue or work towards solution. So my thought is let it out, then work towards solution. If those in your midst keep complaining, try to get underneath it, find the issue and work together to remedy the problem.

  4. Anonymous

    Thanks for the post Jessica. I agree with all your comments and endorse the 5 suggestions of living a better life. I teach 5-12 yr olds Positive Education and am in the process of introducing the ‘Bucket fillers’ which is proving very successful. We are just about to have 2 weeks of giving compliments to fill buckets. I have a Pos Ed blog at if you would like to check out some things we have done.
    Keep up the great work
    Barb 🙂

  5. iowaaccidentalfarmer

    Great post, Jessica! Our district is going through some very rough transitions right now, and this is just what I needed to keep my attitude as positive as I can for myself, those around me, and especially for the students!

  6. Joy Kirr

    I’ve been there, Jessica!
    I’m so fortunate I was born a positive person, and I have the luxury (most times!) to walk away from complainers! They make my blood boil, and it’s so much healthier to stay away from that negativity!
    Here’s to optimism!
    Take care,

  7. Sam Patterson

    When folks at work ask me how I am doing the most negative I respond is “I can’t complain.” I don’t explain that this rule keeps me focused on the positive.

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