Dealing with Tattlers, Whiners, and Backstabbers

Tattlers, whiners, and backstabbers wear a path to your office filling your ear with spin. They have one goal in mind; make their world better at the expense of others.

Console them and they propagate like destructive bunnies. Confront them and they go underground only to focus on you.

I’m more direct, so my approach is not to listen. Marlene Chism, author of, “Stop Workplace Drama,” told me there’s a better way. She said leaders listen. I’ve realized how wise that is.

Success with tattlers, whiners, and backstabbers:

  • Listen. Use all the listening tools you’ve learned.
  • Acknowledge. It’s not enough to listen to understand; listen to make others feel understood. They won’t understand you until they feel you understand them.

At this point you’re thinking, doesn’t this encourage and propagate more of the same. The next two questions move the agenda forward.

  • Ask, what are your choices? Create responsibility by focusing the conversation on the person in the room. They’ll tell what they can’t do. Ask again. Help them get all their “can’t dos” out.
  • Ask, what do you want? Negative people find it nearly impossible to explain what they want. Marlene said they consistently tell you what they don’t want. Listen to what they don’t want and ask again – what do you want. “You’ll hear no, no, no, and not, not, not.”

Tell them you understand they’re upset; that they don’t want things to continue as they are. Ask them to come back at 2:00 p.m. to give you their choices and explain what they want.

The trouble with tattlers, whiners, and backstabbers is they may be right. Marlene is right, leaders listen.

Have you seen the destructive impact of tattlers, whiners, and backstabbers?

What suggestions can you add to Marlene’s list?


More on Backstabbers:

Four ways to spot backstabbers – Backstabbers seem to be your friend.  In reality, they live on the fringes of social protocol; manipulating information for their own advantage.

Sweetbackstabbers – How to Get Better at Office Politics.


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