Explain, Don't Complain...

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough” – Albert Einstein

By Karen Snyder

My husband and I had the pleasure of taking our daughter, Katie, on college tours last week.  The campuses were lovely with both young adults and spring flowers sprouting and growing.
And yes, we are one of those families that actually sits through the tours and listens to their advice.  One of the Admissions Deans shared that admissions officers desire grades improving during the high school years in an upward trajectory, though sometimes that is not the case.  He continued, telling the students, if your grades take a dip, just tell us “why.”  He said that the students may have had a long illness, or perhaps their parents divorced, or a beloved grandparent died…any number of things could have happened that the admissions team would want to know.
He continued by saying, “Explain, but don’t complain.”
That applies to many of my coaching clients, I thought.  They need to “Explain, but not complain.”

“As a responsible employee, it’s imperative to let colleagues, and especially superiors, know when things are going awry.”

Sometimes my clients feel puzzled about what to do when a project they are working on is over budget, or won’t be completed by the deadline.

They realize the problem, but they don’t want to tell their superiors “just yet.”

They put off reporting for months, the problem continues to worsen, and when their superiors learn about it, they are furious.
Other clients are unsure about what to say when a colleague, or two or even three, aren’t pulling their weight.
As a responsible employee, it’s imperative to let colleagues, and especially superiors, know when things are going awry.  It’s not a matter of “if” they should be told, but more a matter of “how.”  That’s when “explain, but don’t complain” is so valuable.  Practicing explaining the situation, without even a hint of complaint, is what will make you a shining star in your workplace.  It’s how high school seniors are being taught to write and it’s valuable at work, too.
My very first manager at Bay State Junior College used to say, “Come with the problem and at least one solution.”  So, that would be “explain, don’t complain and then problem solve” … but that’s not nearly as catchy.
For my readers, first person to come up with a rhyming phrase to integrate “come with a solution” with “explain, don’t complain,” will win a prize.
And even if you don’t win a prize, the ability to explain without complaint or blame will take you very far during your college essays, your first job, and all other endeavors.