7 Responses to Employee Complaints

If you aren’t hearing complaints from employees:

  1. People are lying.
  2. Culture is broken.
  3. Fear blocks honesty.
  4. Things are worse than you think.

Tension bubbles under the surface until it erupts, for leaders who aren’t hearing complaints.

gentle curiosity feels like compassion

7 responses to employee complaints:

  1. Say, “Thank you for saying that.”
  2. Apologize even if you didn’t do anything wrong. Let people know their feelings matter.
    • I’m sorry this went badly for you.
    • I’m sorry this is so upsetting.
    • I’m sorry things didn’t go as you hoped or expected.
    • I’m sorry you were disappointed.
  3. Avoid offering quick explanations, justifications, or solutions. Don’t say:
    • That’s because…
    • You need to understand…
    • We’re doing our best…
    • You should…
  4. Always ask questions first. Use a complaint as a mental trigger to ask questions.
    • Curiosity expresses compassion. Statements express authority.
    • Bite your tongue. If you can’t think of a question, just say, “Tell me more.”
    • Relax. Breathe. Slow down. You want to get away from a complainer. Lean in, instead.
    • Use questions to get to the heart of the matter.
  5. Turn to the future and define the win. You can’t change the past. Here’s how one supervisor turned to the future. Some employees complained that they didn’t feel supported. She asked, “What does support look like to you?”
    • What does it look like when things are going well?
    • What could be done – next time – to make things better?
    • Who needs to be part of this conversation?
    • What can you do to make things better, next time?
    • How may I help?
  6. Identify one key behavior that needs to happen next time. Don’t try to solve everything. Just solve something.
  7. Keep every promise you make.

Bonus: Set a follow up meeting, when appropriate.

Complainers care about something. Be thankful they care.

What are some useful responses to employee complaints?