It is natural for people to focus on negative parts of situations. We experience something we don't like and want to discuss it. This can be healthy. We are letting off some steam, as it were.
Occasionally we might be actively participating in a discussion with a negative tone. If we don't take action or give actionable advice then all we are doing is complaining. Complaining is not helpful if we do it too often. On top of that, the situations we are bringing up for discussion are probably not new to our colleagues. They know about it, they know it is not optimal. They haven't had the energy or drive yet to fix it. If we are not bringing something constructive or positive to the discussion we will end up taking more of their time and energy.
It has become clear to me that this type of conversation tends not to become a constructive conversation, unless we make a conscious effort. If we let the conversation flow naturally it is rare for this kind of conversation to become one where solutions are offered and follow-up actions are defined.
When this kind of conversations come up with colleagues, we have three good options. Option one is to let people just get it out, but keep it short. If the topic continues, we can go to options two and three. Option two is to share actionable advice now or even offer to solve the problem, if we can do so and the person is open to it. If we can't, option three is to offer to schedule a meeting with people who might. At this point the people we are talking with will indicate whether there really is a problem that needs solving, or they were just letting off some steam.
Sometimes a complaint comes up that we just can't really do anything with. This can cost us a lot of energy. The best way to handle this type of conversation may be to acknowledge the complaint, but add something that turns it in to an uplifting conversation. Preferably there is something happy to be said related to the complaint. If the complaint goes on too long, and we can't think of anything relevant and useful to say, we can always transition the conversation to the good weather, sports, or whatever happened in a famous television show.