Would you like some cheese with that whine?

CarolinaFireJournal - Dave Murphy
Dave Murphy
07/25/2010 -

Do you remember the Whiners on Saturday Night Live?  The Whiners were recurring characters on Saturday Night Live from 1982 to 1984. Joe Piscopo playing Doug Whiner, and Robin Duke playing Wendy Whiner, spoke all their lines in a whining, nasal tone, hence, a double meaning of their name. They struggled with the everyday rigors of life and constantly whined about everything.


“A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort.” - Herm Albright 1876-1944

Dictionary.com defines whining as: “To complain or protest in a childish fashion.” Are you a whiner? Do you work with a whiner? Most workplaces have one, or possibly several of them. How much fun is it to be around these types of coworkers, especially for 24 hour in a fire station? What do these types actually contribute to the organization? Most likely, they do not contribute anything. It is not bad enough that they are mostly miserable and unproductive, but their constant complaining serves only to hamper other workers’ morale and productivity. I am sure that most of us can relate this description with a present or hopefully past co-worker.

Author and workplace behavioral trainer Marcia Hall wrote in an article for the Annapolis Capital, she states “Complaining is easy to do and can be hard to stop,” yet “in the workplace, griping can affect productivity and morale.” And by creating a negative impression, a worker can limit the responsibility they are given, and therefore their ability to move up in a company. “This is not to say that all complaining is bad,” as bringing “a problem that needs to be addressed ... to the attention of employers and suggesting possible remedies can be helpful.” Even in these cases, “using a professional tone while describing the difficulty is essential.” However, “complaining becomes deadly ... when no problem exists, it is constant, or morale and productivity are dampened.” Hall offers some advice on soft skills, such as using “the good manners your mother taught you,” maintaining a sense of humor, and being willing “to ask questions and seek clarification.”

As so aptly stated above, most whining is usually counter-productive to the mission at hand. Negative people usually do not produce anything but ill will. On the other hand, when complaints are well organized into a more effective presentation (written or orally), they can actually bring about needed changes in the organization. These changes will most likely occur when you can show some notable increase in efficiency or during these tough economic times, some sort of money savings.  Look at the big picture, from everyone’s vantage point, develop and maintain the inner ability to meet someone half-way.  Be nice — always remember that you “catch more flies with honey than with vinegar”.  Organize your thoughts, preferably written, into a plausible win-win scenario for all parties involved.  Do your homework prior to meeting, have someone play the devil’s advocate, consider the questions that will be posed by the decision makers that will ultimately enable or nix your idea.

If you must whine, do so with good intentions and a well thought out plan regarding a positive outcome. As a former fire chief was fond of saying ... “my door is always open to you. Bring me any problem ... as long as you also bring the solution!” If you must whine, be a positive, productive whiner! In the end, remember that submitting proposals (ideas) is somewhat like fighting fire. Some you win, some you lose, some you call a draw — but we keep on doing it anyway. The same logic should apply here ... assemble your whiny thoughts – make something good happen!

Dave Murphy serves as an Associate Professor in the Fire and Safety Engineering Technology program at The University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He is a past Eastern Director of the Fire Department Safety Officers Association and also as a Principal Member on NFPA 610 – Guide for Safety & Emergency Operations at Motorsports Venues.
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