Some complaints are justified, others are not. Personally, I have found that chronic complaining (even silently to myself) accomplishes nothing positive. However, for many people, it seems to be an essential part of their personality, almost a way of life for them, and can be contagious among others, helping to create a toxic climate. It's best to avoid such people whenever possible but sometimes that is impossible. What to do? That is essentially the question to which Jon Gordon responds in this slender but thoughtful volume. "I didn't invent the [No Complaining Rule]. I discovered it - at a small, fast growing, highly successful company that implements simple practices with extraordinary results." Readers who "find" this rule in Gordon's book and then "obey" it will, in my opinion, do themselves and countless others a great favor: they will think of possible solutions to their complaints and, over time, become problem solvers rather than problem sharers.
The business fable has become a very popular genre and Gordon takes full advantage of its components (i.e. characters, plot, conflicts, tension, climax) to dramatize his key points. Briefly, here's the situation. Hope is the VP of HR for EZ Tech and, as the story begins, the highly profitable company suddenly faces a serious problem: The computer batteries it sells are catching on fire and that product defect has brought into question the capabilities of its "rock star" CEO, Dan. We also learn that Hope is a single parent of two teenagers who complain that they are neglected and Dan has recently become concerned that she is not devoting sufficient attention to her EZ Tech responsibilities so there are great pressures on her both at work and at home.
Dan convenes his senior management team, accepts full responsibility for paying so much attention to achieving short-term financial results while ignoring employee concerns, allowing negativity and morale problems to fester. "This is not a problem of a few negative bloggers. They're just a symptom. So is our battery problem. Our real problem is negativity and our negative culture, and we need to address this immediately." And then.... What happens next is best revealed while reading the book.
Others have their own reasons for praising this book. Here are two of mine. First, Gordon is a skillful raconteur. I almost immediately became interested in the "story," especially in Hope, and that interest continued until the final page. That is not true of all business fables, some of which have "stick" characters, a goofy plot, and a contrived ending. Also, Gordon devotes his attention to a major challenge to all businesses: How to establish and then (key word) sustain a workplace that is a positive environment, one in which there are mutual trust and respect, one in which those involved are problem solvers rather than problem sharers, and one that keeps financial success and the welfare of its people in proper perspective. At one point, Hope observes: "Of course we have to look at numbers. But it shouldn't be our focus. Because people deliver the numbers, people should be our focus, and if we focus on them they will deliver the numbers we want."
After concluding the narrative, Jon Gordon provides a "No Complaining Rule Action Plan," a "No Complaining Week Personal Action Plan," and a "Are You a Complainer? Assessment." He also invites his reader to visit [...] to obtain additional information and resources.
Those who appreciate business fables are encouraged to check out Jason Jennings' Squirrel Inc., any of Patrick Lencioni's (notably The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive: A Leadership Fable and Silos, Politics and Turf Wars: A Leadership Fable About Destroying the Barriers That Turn Colleagues Into Competitors) and Marc Allen's Visionary Business, a book that has thus far not received the attention it so richly deserves. My other recommendations include Denning's The Leader's Guide to Storytelling: Mastering the Art and Discipline of Business Narrative and Transparency: How Leaders Create a Culture of Candor co-authored by Warren Bennis, Daniel Goleman, and James O'Toole with Patricia Ward Biederman as well as Michael Ray's The Highest Goal: The Secret That Sustains You in Every Moment and two books written by Bill George, Authentic Leadership: Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating Lasting Value and his more recent True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership with Peter Sims.