Three Ways to Lead a Pack of Complainers

Success always encounters complainers. But some people complain like it’s an Olympic sport.

#1. Practice optimistic transparency:

Don’t sweep complaints under the carpet. Expose them to the light.

Reject anonymous complaining.

Never represent an anonymous complainer.

Fear of making matters worse motivates some leaders to deal with issues quietly. But you should assume that recurring complaints are already known by others. 

Secrets empower and embolden negativity.

Optimistic transparency is openly pressing toward noble goals, rather than pretending problems don’t exist.

Keep positive intention in mind when dealing with complaints.

  1. Do you want people to be happy? Tell them.
  2. Are you committed to organizational mission? Say so.
  3. Will you move forward in the face of imperfection? Declare yourself.

#2. Acknowledge emotion:

Listen to concerns. Acknowledge anxiety.

Sometimes all people want is to feel heard. The best way to make people feel heard is to acknowledge emotion. I remember reading that court cases are often appealed, not because of the verdict, but because someone didn’t feel heard.

  1. “I see that you’re troubled by this. I want you to be happy at work.”
  2. “Obviously, this is troubling you. What’s important about solving this for you?”
  3. “I think we both want what’s best for our organization. What happens for you if we can’t solve this concern?”

Leaders encourage complaining when they stifle concerns and ignore anxieties.

In order for people to trust you, they must believe you understand and care.

#3. Turn to solutions:

Ask complainers two power questions.

  1. “Can we fix this?” If the answer is, “No,” then why are we talking about it?
  2. “What are you willing to do about this?” Wait for an answer.

You can’t complain and find solutions at the same time. (Well, most of us can’t.)

Words are rudders. The things you talk about determine organizational direction.

Tip: Spend more time with solvers than complainers.

How would you lead a bunch of complainers? (Assuming you can’t escape them.)