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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?”

End well:

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.

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