I was talking with someone recently who was asking the best way to handle a complainer. We’ve all worked or lived with them. As strong personal leaders, we know that complaining is pointless, irritating and toxic.
Not everyone has gotten that message though and they seem bent on taking the rest of the team down with them. What is the best way to deal with the complainer?
Here are 7 ways that work:
- Ask for solutions. Asking for solutions is an empowering way to turn the table and change focus. Instead of lamenting what’s wrong, it changes the focus to what can be done. The caveat is that the solution must be a workable solution and one that they have some control over implementing.
- Transfer ownership. Once the complainer has offered up a solution(s), give them ownership and latitude to work their solution. Offer support, but never take ownership of their project. It’s theirs.
- Announce rules of engagement. Gather you team together and make a global announcement that complaining will not be tolerated – period. What is allowed is surfacing concerns and offering solutions or asking for input and advice. But complaining is counter-productive and off limits.
- Reward solutions. Rewarded behaviors are repeated behaviors. Know what type of reward holds meaning for each of your people and reward them accordingly. Some are satisfied with a simple acknowledgement. Some prefer to be recognized publically. Others may just want more freedom and latitude in working projects. Whatever it is, reward the solution-focused behavior.
- Ask for help. Many times we tend to avoid the complainer because they are such downers. Approach the complainer instead and ask for their help. Acknowledge the valuable contribution they make to the team with their skill-set. And that you want to be their advocate so they are recognized for what they do well. Then let them know that the team isn’t getting an accurate picture of how valuable this person is because of the complaining. You need their help so you can help them succeed.
- Include them in decisions. Give them a voice in decisions that impact them when appropriate. You can’t do this all the time, but many times you can. When you give them a voice, they feel more empowered, important and valued. The side benefit is that if they have helped make a decision, they can’t complain about it.
- Communicate regularly. Oftentimes complaining is rooted in misunderstanding and poor communication. Share the reasons for decisions. Communicate early and often to avoid people making up their own stories – which is never good.
Don’t tolerate complaining and don’t ignore it either. Address it head on. Ask for help, share ownership and reward the desired behaviors. Turn your complainers into solution-makers.
Image courtesy of Franky242 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net