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As a developer working for a large company, we occasionally get together to discuss how our jobs could be easier/better.

However, one of our coworkers has started talking about how much our development tools stink, which I could put up with for a time (as our dev tools really do have room for improvement), but after a while those complaints became more and more negative (such as inventing pejorative nicknames for those dev tools), and more and more directed at management (but not discussed with management), with little discussion of actual solutions.

Lately, that coworker has even taken to complaining about our location in the midwest, calling it a "craphole" and "backwards". While I'm not from our city here, it came off as offensive to me as I've really enjoyed living here, and it really offended a couple of others that were born and raised here.

Sometimes I've wanted to tell him that if he doesn't like it here, no one is forcing him to stay, but I feel that that would be a bit unprofessional. I know people like to complain, but this is starting to drag on morale.

Should this be something I should bring up to my manager?

  • In what setting is this happening? Are these formal meetings or everyone getting together around the coffee pot? It might pay to speak with the coworker later and explain that what he is sharing is really bringing down the rest of the team. It probably will not do any good, but I would still take the opportunity if it presented itself. – JasonJ Jul 12 '16 at 16:43
  • It's more informal, around-the-watercooler type discussions. Sometimes a conversation on Slack becomes a quick, informal physical gathering. – panoptical Jul 12 '16 at 16:53
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So, although this person is a whiner, it sounds like there is room for improvement in your opinion so I would work through a few levels with this person:

Start with:

So what do you suggest we need?

I'm not sure what you currently use, but there are plenty of shops still using 10 year old IDEs etc.

Now what they come back with will say a lot. If they want lots of shiny, top of the range enterprise stuff cause it's cool, you can proceed to Simon at rcl's answer.

But if, for example, you are a shop using Visual Studio 2002 with Sourcesafe, and your colleague is saying "we could get VS Code and Git and a jenkins build", i.e. things that will make things better, but the only investment is in time (yes time costs money, but you can skunk works it at least as a proof), then you maybe want to probe further:

So how do we sell this to management

See how really keen they are, if this is a real want and idea, they'll have thought of something. If not GOTO Simon's answer, OR if the suggested alternative is a possibility think about it yourself.

If the sales pitch from your colleague is reasonable, work with them to fine tune it and see if the two (or more) of you can sell this to management. Companies who won't spend money don't see the benefits, you need to make the case to them, usually in monetary amounts. If they think they can make 200 by spending 100, they'll see the value.

Who knows, maybe it'll be the start of actual improvement, if not use this to start your own ideas.

  • +1 for suggesting directing the energy of this person. Most of us IT people complain. It's the first step of problem solving for many of us. But when it's directed it can be powerful! Good answer. – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Jul 12 '16 at 17:19
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Personally, I would have no problem telling them 'Leave if you hate it so much' or 'No-one's forcing you to stay', and don't think that unprofessional at all. (It might be if I was their manager but that's not the case here.)

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If the majority of the people in your discussion group agrees, invite someone from management to this pow-wow sessions of yours and have them hear what is being said by this person and everyone else. Maybe, they are not aware of the problems/deficiencies in the process and they might fix at least some of them. If not, I am going to go out on a limb and say, this chronic complainer person has some common sense and will not bad mouth the company/division no more. And if he he continues to do it, maybe, just maybe, the management person involved in these discussion will hear it through the grapewine and do something about him/her

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Beware of intrigants that wait you saying "yes I also think so". Then they may rush to the management to report how bad are you talking about the company.

Best would be just to ignore him. If that whining distracts you from work, try to move to another room.

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