It's like tossing a pebble in a pond: Your negative action has a ripple effect among your team. Every time you complain, for example, you give your staff permission to do the same.
For many people, complaining comes naturally. The whining is almost primal—we just find ourselves expressing dismay or disgust without even realizing it.
Putting a lid on complaining starts with awareness. By shutting down your impulse to blurt out what you deem wrong, unjust or senseless, you give yourself a chance to think through the repercussions of what you want to say—before you say it.
Once you pause and weigh how to convey your concern, you're halfway home. You can then choose a more positive, can-do statement rather than an air-sucking-out-of-room complaint.
Try to restructure your comment so that you don't "go negative" even though you're in full gripe mode. Examples:
"In dealing with [nature of complaint], I can address that by"
"As much as I'm concerned with [nature of complaint], I'm pleased that"
"To put things in perspective, while it's easy to say that [nature of complaint], it's more productive to point out that"
It's particularly disheartening to your employees if you complain about your higher-ups. They will not only feel powerless and demotivated, but they may conclude that they can now whine about you behind your back.
Instead of bashing, strategize on how you can make a difference. Say, "I'd like us to draft a proposal to change this procedure so that the top brass have more evidence to make a well-informed decision."