“Never tell your problems to anyone ... 20% don’t care and the other 80% are glad you have them.” – Lou Holtz
You may have read articles on how to deal with a chronic complainer on your team or a constantly complaining boss. But what if you, the supervisor, take a long hard look in the mirror and discover the source of most complaining in your department is looking right back at you.
It’s easy to become a habitual complainer because as a supervisor you’re in the middle. You may be tempted to complain when those you supervise don’t meet your expectations and you are tempted to complain when your manager doesn’t support you or adds new projects to your plate. You may frequently be heard muttering things like, “Bob never does anything the way I tell him to,” or “Another meeting! Doesn’t she know I’ve got work to do?” Or maybe just, “Ugh! The coffee here is awful.”
Why complaining is bad
Complaining creates confirmation bias. That means if you expect the worst in people or situations (and vocalize it), you’ll continue to get negativity.
Complaining is contagious. Your employees will get the message that complaining is not just okay, it’s expected. But the game of “Who has it worse?” doesn’t have a winner.
It blows small problems out of proportion. Imagine a new hire starting what he or she considers to be a good job with a good company. But from day one, all the employee hears from you is little complaints other employees and the company. Soon he or she will believe everything is terrible and may even regret taking the job.
It encourages people to give up. The newbie’s gung-ho attitude will quickly match the “why bother?” attitude of the rest of the team, which has been subjected to your complaining for years.
Complaining stifles creativity. Instead of actively trying to solve problems, people take the easy way out and join you in complaining about things. The coffee is terrible? Instead of looking into switching brands, getting a new coffee maker or hiring a coffee service everyone just drinks bad coffee and complains. This is a very un-creative response to the problem.
Legitimate grievances are ignored. Like “The Boy who Cried Wolf,” if you are constantly complaining about the annoying minutia of your job, no one will ever know when you’ve got a real problem.
Negativity can flow from the top down, but so can a positive attitude! Hone yours by consciously noting the good things about your job, your team, your company, etc. Take time to praise employees. Offer suggestions and invite creative solutions for improving situations rather than complaining about them. Making a conscious effort to accentuate the positive might make you, and that coffee, less bitter.
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This article was featured in the Employee Relations Management Today newsletter.
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