Complainers: 5 Ways to Limit the Garbage People Pour into Your Ears
How much time do you spend listening to complainers? Too much.
Cy Wakeman’s research with one company showed employees spent almost 2.5 hours a day dealing with drama. Drama most often came from b*thching, moaning, and whining (BMW).
Garbage in your ears:
Complainers feel powerful pouring garbage in your ears. You mistakenly think you’re helping when you listen to complainers.
Powerless complainers expect people with power to fix their problems. When you fix someone’s problems for them, you teach them to run to you the next time they need something fixed.
You encourage weakness when you solve people’s problems – when they could solve their own.
Venting doesn’t work. Venting intensifies negative emotion.
Repeated complaining multiplies pain.
5 ways to respond to complainers:
#1. Coach more. Fix less.
#2. Watch your pronouns.
Use ‘we’ when you plan to get involved. Use ‘you’ when you expect them to solve their own problems.
#3. Keep the ball in their hands.
Ask, “What have you tried to solve this?” If they haven’t tried anything, it’s good for them to acknowledge it.
If they tried to solve a situation and failed, say, “Let’s develop some other solutions.”
#4. Say, “How can I help,” skillfully.
Let people know you aren’t going to do their job for them. However, you can point them in a useful direction.
#5. Invite self-reflection.
“What does this situation teach you about yourself?”
At the end of a session that began with complaining say, “Let’s set up a meeting next week so you can let me know what you did and how it’s working.”
Tip: You have power to solve some problems for complainers. Go for it but take note of people who keep returning.
How can leaders limit the amount of garbage people pour in their ears?
Still curious: 7 Truths about Chronic Complainers Every Leader Needs Today.
Stay focused on the present and future. Victims like to relive the past.
1. What is your biggest problem or issue at this moment?
2. What action are you going to take to address it.
Victims act like they are helpless. Coach them and teach them they are able to take actions they to address their issue.
And as you said Dan, it’s important to keep ownership of their problems with them.
Thanks Paul. A present and future focus is so valuable. People often need encouragement to lift up their heads.
The first rule of problem solving: if at all possible, make it someone else’s problem!
And good managers figure out who to blame. Great managers figure out who to blame before the project begins.
Wow – “Great managers figure out who to blame before the project begins.” So great managers handle issues with blame? No, great managers figure out how to inspire people and thus limit screw-ups and failure before a project begins. I would have zero respect for any manager who relies on blame as a management tool. It only shows they are incompetent or have reached their Peter Principle limit – or both.
Thanks Tim. I couldn’t agree more.