I am so sick of complainers. Aren't you? Don't they just irritate to the very bone? I can't believe they can just whine and moan about everything without an end in sight. Complainers are such big ... oh. Wait a second. Am I complaining about complaining? Looks like it to me. There's no getting around it. Complaints and complainers are everywhere.
I complain. You complain. If you don't complain, check your pulse. We all, at one point or another, complain. Some more than others. Some even more than that. But it's our ability to understand the complainer's point of view and the reason for the complaints that will make life a tad smoother.
Complainers are like vampires. Until you drive a stake through the heart of the complaint, they just won't ... shut ... up! They keep coming back like a bad horror movie. What we need to realize is, complaints almost always have a kernel of truth to them. It could be a tiny speck of truth and, through their egos, exaggeration or any number of other reasons, they have inflated that speck into a complaint. If we can identify the reason for the kernel, we put a stake in it and deflate it out of existence, or at least turn it into something more manageable. So here's the best way to slay the complaining undead of the business world.
1. Listen. Being able to identify the kernel of truth is the trick. Sometimes it's a small problem that only affects the complainer. Maybe it's easily fixable, maybe not. Either way, the complainer wants to be heard. So listen. Try not to react to the complaint by playing "Counterpoint" and showing how invalid the complaint is. Defending our positions while people complain usually just causes the complaints to escalate. People will exaggerate more and more to show you just how important whatever they're griping about is to them.
Don't judge. At least not while you're talking to them. Rolling your eyes as they talk is a big no-no. Save the judging for when you're alone, or at least away from them where they can't hear you giggle. By really listening (I know, I hate doing that too) to the complaint, you can usually find the reason for its existence.
2. Recognize. Sometimes the complaint is just a way for the person to feel heard. They want someone to say, "You are so right. Thank God you spoke up and saved the company. I find you a valuable and worthy employee. Here's a raise!" Well, maybe that's just me. But the point is still valid. Being more inclusive and asking for their opinions ahead of time (even if they are wrong 99% of the time), allows them to feel important and part of the process. If they feel part of a decision, they will be less inclined to complain about it.
3. Solve the problem. This can be tricky, because sometimes it's a fundamental problem that has been overlooked; sometimes it's a problem in the warped mind of the complainer. It's your job to figure out the validity and importance of the complaint. But don't dismiss the problem. Unfortunately, it's often the complainer's delivery system that drives us to dismiss them. Try not to ignore the message just because you don't like the messenger or the messenger's delivery. Many huge corporate mistakes were known about in advance and ignored. The fact that a complainer identified it caused it to be dismissed. He or she may have some very valid points that make a great deal of sense. Don't fall into the trap of dismissing the cry of "the sky is falling" until you get hit in the head with a piece of ceiling. Some problems are easier than others, but by solving the issue, we remove the kernel of truth to the complaint, rendering it moot.
Like vampires, complainers, left to their own devices, will bite other employees and make them part of their brood. An effective complainer can contaminate and destroy morale. If they slowly infect the coworkers around them, you soon will have a serious problem that no amount of Holy Water can fix. By simply listening to the problem, recognizing that the complainer has a valid point, or possibly solving the issue, you can exorcise the undead out of your life and concentrate on more important things. Like zombie employees!
©Craig Price 2007 Craig Price is a speaker, trainer, and consultant. He specializes in taking your natural thought processes and turning them into productivity. Visit his website at [http://www.speakercraigprice.com]Price Points
or his blog at http://www.thepowerofnegativeblogging.com