Dealing with Complainers

There's one person in your organization who is constantly complaining about something. Besides the fact that the complainer wastes time, you're worried that other members' morale may be affected by the complaining. What can you do?

What can you do? 

Create a climate where complainers feel heard. Often all the complainer needs is someone who will listen. Complainers really don't want things to be different. They usually aren't demanding change. You can surprise, and possibly quiet, complainese by simply listening. But don't just pretend to listen -- Really pay attention to what they say.

Listen without passing judgment. Listen while the complainer is talking. If you have to say something, simply rephrase what you've heard to see if you've really understood it: "So the problem is that some people get more priviledges than others."

Overcome the urge to argue. After you understand the complainer's position, don't argue about what's right or wrong. Just say where you stand. Defending your position will only make the complainer angrier.

Ignore invitations to join in on gripe sessions. While listening to complaints, you may agree with some. You may be tempted to chime in. There's nothign that encourages more complaining than the words, "You're so right".

Make it clear what you can and can't do. Tell the complainer where your limits are.

Negotiate a workable solution, if possible. Ask complainers what they want done or how they would improve things. 

Resist getting trapped. You know you're trapped if you're so angry that you can't do your job. Take a break. Thingk things through. Tell yourself, "The problem is manageable, I can handle it."Whatever you do, come back to work refereshed. Be ready to focus on other people and other things. Decide that constant complainers my give themselves a headache, but do not let them give you one. 

Adapted from Practical Supervision, by Professional Training Associates, Inc., ROund Rock, Texas.

For more information on organizational and personal development skill or University policies regarding organizations, stop by or call the Leadership Activities Office, Student Center, University of the Incarnate Word, 829 - 6034