November 25, 2015 by Harry Stoll
“Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain…..and most fools do.” – Benjamin Franklin
Being in sales for 25 years and working for 6 different companies in the process, I have worked side by side with dozens and dozens of individuals. Every office I worked in, there was a complainer. When I look back on these experiences, it’s fair to say that the complainer was me, and others, too. We all complain. But not all of us transform it into a bad habit. The Complainer has a bad habit of whining. No job is too big, or too small, for the complainer to whine about. The Complainer is impossible to quiet.
We all know them, those people within our organizations who are negative, who seem to only see the worst in every situation. These people would rather complain than seek a solution. Their constant negativity is like a disease that gradually infects all those around them, slowly robbing the team of joy, happiness, success and opportunity.
The Gallop Organization has published reports that ‘negativity’ costs US Companies more than $300 billion annually in lost productivity. Truejobs.com cited surveys that indicate the #1 cause of office stress was coworkers and their complaining. A recent LinkedIn poll of 17,000 office professionals of all sorts and sizes listed these 5 biggest Pet Peeves:
1. People not taking ownership for their actions/inactions.
2. Constant Complainers!
3. Dirty common areas.
4. Starting meetings late, or going long.
5. People who don’t respond to emails.
Ouch! Number 2 Pet Peeve in the world, and I have been as guilty as the next for being a complainer. I have made this a point of emphasis to only complain when I need to bring attention to an issue or problem that I have a solution for. If I don’t have a solution, then all I am doing is complaining…..Then all I am doing is bringing everyone else down. No solution? No complaining!
Remember, some complaints by employees are absolutely valid. If you are a supervisor or manager, it is very important how you handle ‘The Complainer’. When this individual comes to you with a complaint, you can view this as an opportunity to find out if other employees are feeling the same way, and you may teach your employee a valuable lesson in problem-solving.
When ‘The Complainer’ comes to you with a complaint, ask this question of the employee, “Does everyone else feel the same way?” This positions you as a good listener, and you can find out what is going on behind the cubicles, or on the floor. If nobody else feels the same way, then you know that you have an issue with just one person, and you can then tackle the issue. An excellent power question to ask then is, “What do you suggest?” Or, you can ask “What do you plan to do about this situation?” Now you are teaching your employees to think like problem solvers, giving them ownership of the process to find a solution. This action is proactive and solution-based.
According to Trevor Blake, author of “Three Simple Steps: A Map to Success in Business and Life,”exposure to unceasing negativity impairs brain function. In order to save yourself he suggests the following:
1. Create Distance – just like a non-smoker does not want their health impaired by someone smoking near them, and they move away, you should do the same with The Complainer. Step away and stay away if at all possible.
2. Ask The Complainer to fix the problem. This is what I like. This will cause The Complainer to generate a solution…….or walk away (Create Distance, whew!).
3. Shield Yourself – use your imagination to create mental imagery that protects your hippocampus. Think of something positive, play loud music in your head, or pretend you have invisible powers.
We all have bad days and difficult experiences to varying degrees. It is acceptable to vent. The boundary is when you throw energy out with your words while coming up with no solution to the problem. Shift complaining to problem-solving and you will become more creative and productive.
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