The No Complaining Rule

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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 is a cross post from my blog at


  1. […]   I've read a number of books by Jon Gordon and have never been disappointed.  His books are quick reads, but always inspirational with powe…  […]

    August 13, 2012
  2. Peg Gillard (@gracinginfinity) said:

    Thank you! Second post I read today on Gratitude Practice. While I truly do practice Gratitude every day, and really attend to staying in the moment, the reminders were acute! I will work to attend more consciously, especially as school really ramps up and more folks are back in the building. Great post and keep writing!

    August 13, 2012
  3. Jaime Stacy said:

    Of all the things I have done for my teachers, the cheapest token of gratitude I have given has been the best received. I went to the dollar store and bought a bunch of packs of paper cutout gold stars. Anytime I see something FABULOUS taking place in a classroom, I write the teacher a little note on the back of the gold star, and slip it in their mailbox. I began to notice that teachers actually collect their stars and display them on the wall in their classrooms. Seeing that motivates me to write more of them!

    August 15, 2012

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