37% of Managers Don’t Give Positive Feedback – How to Stop Complaining
It’s easier to complain than take responsibility to make something better.
One morning, not long ago, I set out to NOT complain for a day. That morning at 7:00 a.m I met a leader for coffee. He said I complained in the first 30 seconds of our conversation. I complained about the large cold room where we were having coffee.
The complainer in me wants to blame him for pulling me down! But sometime – before I die – I need to take responsibility for my life.
Stop blaming others for the ugly things you see in yourself.
5 dangers of complaining:
- Complaining makes you small. You’re smaller than the people you complain about.
- Complaining makes you ugly. Even beautiful people look ugly when they complain.
- Complaining leads to blaming. Complainers want someone else to do something.
- Complaining makes you unhappy and it makes those around you unhappy.
- Complaining is habit forming. Repeated thoughts program your brain. Having a thought makes it easier to have the same thought.
The more you complain, the more you want to complain.
Why words matter:
Words are rudders.
Words set the direction of your leadership.
Decide today that you’re going to bring positive energy everywhere you go. This isn’t some philosophy for hippies and dope smokers.
Positive energy takes you further.
Teams move in the direction of their conversations.
If all you talk about is what’s wrong, then you have a dark team.
Evaluate conversations by asking. “Where does this conversation take us?”
Relationships reflect conversations.
- Commit to not complain for an hour. In the past I suggested you not complain for half a day. Maybe an hour is more realistic.
- Use positive language 80% of the time. That means make eight positive comments about your team members for every two negatives you say about them. Negativity is popular. 37% of managers don’t give positive feedback. (Zenger/Folkman)
- Express gratitude every time you feel like complaining. (Don’t tell people what you’re doing. If you do, they’ll know how much you want to complain by your expressions of gratitude.)
- Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t.
- Team up with a no-complaining partner. Put a dollar in a fine jar every time you catch each other complaining. Use the cash to go out for dinner.
What tips do you have for overcoming the habit of complaining?
Which project could you try to counter your tendency to complain?
I would like to take credit for this, but I can’t. I just finished reading “Conversations Worth Having” by Jackie Stavros and Cheri Torres, and they talk about using “appreciative inquiry” as a method to have constructive, positive dialogues. Words do matter. And how those words are delivered also matter. Also, it is unfortunate that the complaining often is done when the “subject” (perhaps “target” is a better word) is not present.
Thanks Daryl. Appreciative inquiry is a powerful expression. It fits nicely into a style of leadership that rejects complaining.
You’ve answered one of the concerns about not complaining. How can we talk about problems?
I find your comment is filled with useful insight. Your use of “target” cp “subject” speaks volumes.
I’ve been having fun writing about complaining the last few days. Perhaps because it really hits home for me.
Dan, let’s be honest here, most managers don’t give much feedback of any sort – a complaint-fest once a year at appraisal time, then (hopefully) benign neglect for the next twelve months.
A great many managers seem to not grasp the idea that you have to interact with those you manage.
Thanks Mitch. 41% of employees say their manager doesn’t give them any feedback. Surprisingly when you ask managers, the percentage drops to 31%. Not only is there a need for healthy interactions between employees and managers, apparently, some managers think they’re giving feedback when they aren’t. 🙂
Dan, I think some people mistake their saying “What the hell were you thinking?!” for giving feedback!
Positive feedback comes with appreciating those who you work with.
The playing field is level to start.
Stay away from building barriers, keep open minded knowing why your on the helm of the group.
Share the accolades with your team often, can help negate the illusions of power struggles with in.
Thanks Tim. Hierarchical environments lend themselves to talking down at people. Powerful observation. I appreciate your insights.
Relationships start with trust and credibility — when we trust our leaders, we engage openly to seek and receive feedback in order to produce our best work to meet goals. Positive feedback ensues when a leader is committed to the success of the team member far beyond the immediate goal — when a leader is focussed on growing their people AND producing results, there is a positive synergy –a highly productive team. My experience is that many leaders are “I” focussed and therefore openly engaging in why others aren’t helping meet their goals and then the blaming and complaining begin, creating a toxic environment. The result is poor productivity, bad morale, turnover, absenteeism, presenteeism and loss of business. Positive, meaningful feedback goes a long way to turn this toxic environment around — leaders, learn to do it often in a personal, meaningful way, and watch the team transform.
Thanks Jan. You can’t get much done without trust and credibility. Relying on title and position seems to undermine these two essentials.
It’s useful for all leaders to realize that it’s expensive to treat people badly. As you indicate turnover and absenteeism go up. Thanks for stopping in.
Life, people and situations are imperfect. For example when people fall in love they believe their partner is perfect. With time the imperfections begin to show, then the complaints begin. Realising imperfection is part of life may be key. With this realisation one could practice acceptance rather than complaining.
So true. Acceptance of what is is crucial. Then, refuse to accept that things always have to be that way. Aspire to lift your team and then inspire them to reach for your vision.
Thanks Joel. Two great leadership words. Aspire and inspire. Have a great week.
Thanks Gerry. What a great alternative. I must say that’s it’s a little unnerving. What if I accept people and they end up being lousy team members?
I think much of this concern is answered by hiring people with aspiration and working to get them in the right roles. Cheers
I think it depends on your work environment. When I was hairdressing, we didn’t sit around complaining, our sights were set on how we could improve our techniques, update our skills, and keep current with changing cycles of fashion. But to make improvements, you have to diagnose where the weaknesses are, but then you set about fixing them. I think thats where I personally learnt to appreciate the value of honest assessment. But its true, an environment where there are too many critics, just makes you feel defeated, like its not even worth trying. Still enjoying reading. Thanks.
I’m going to rework this to use at home, make it family focused. Our home has become a nest of complaining. Time to turn it around. Thanks.
Completely agree with all your feedback tips! My favourite tips on feedback is definitely the “feedforward” habit. Focus on how you want things in the future and not on mistakes made in the past. People are less defensive when you give feedforward in stead of feedback! Thanks for the feedback inspiration!
Great post! I think sometimes I’m Pollyannish because I am by nature a positive person. But I surely complain as well. I recently decided that my leadership focus was to catch my people doing well, and this fits right into that goal.