Solution Saturday: Witness to Sniping and B*tching

Dear Dan,

I work in a place where I witness sniping and b*tching all the time about how the boss is hidden away, or has no leadership skills, or how others aren’t doing their job properly.

I’m not a leader yet, but I think I can change people around me by using the tools you share. I’m sick of hearing this negative vision, dragging everyone down.

Any tips how to address this?

Witness to Sniping


Dear Witness,

Thanks for your email. Congratulations on listening to your desire to make things brighter in a dark environment. Your aspiration shines brightly through the little phrase, “I’m not a leader yet.” The word ‘yet’ sings with hope.

Concern over sniping and b*tching is well founded. The most important thing about us is the way we treat each other while we work.

Changing people:

First of all, you can influence, but you can’t change people. Trying to change people has the feel of superior to inferior. It leads to manipulation, resistance, frustration, and disappointment.

Influence is best exercised at eye level where mutual respect defines the way we treat each other, even when we disagree. You can’t influence those who feel disrespected by you.


I hate being negative, but it’s not likely you’ll be able to turn a dark culture to bright without the active participation of leaders at the top. But, there is something you can do.

Worry about things within your control.

The secret to success is choosing language and behaviors that express your best aspirations. You may want to complain about lousy leaders, but, in the end, you put yourself in the same bucket. Hold yourself accountable to the highest standards. Become the leader you wish you had.


Work with those closest to you to change the environment closest to you. Let go of your desire to change the people upstairs. Embrace the challenge of building positive relationships with people across the hall.

Discuss simple daily behaviors that build an environment where the people around you love to come to work. It will take clarity, commitment, grit, and, most importantly, time. In addition, define language and behaviors that need to stop.

  1. What does a great place to work look like?
  2. What behaviors will move you toward that best place?
  3. Who will join you on the journey?
  4. How might you encourage each other?

Own the environment where your own shadow falls. Reject the easy enjoyment of blaming others.


Go ahead and think big, but act small. The desire for radical change makes small changes seem like a waste of time. Choose small behaviors that move the agenda forward.


The downward drag of a negative culture is not easily overcome. It will test your resolve and require you to humbly bring your best self to work everyday.

You have my best,


What suggestions do you have for Witness to Sniping?

*I relax the 300 word limit on Solution Saturday.