Associated Leadership Expectation: Show Up PositiveComplaining is a behavior pattern that works against creating a cohesive team mentality. It divides our departments into “us and them” groups and dissolves trust. When someone comes to us as leaders with a complaint, there are two basic reactions: we either get sucked in or we take it personally. Instead, we need to turn those complaints into ideas.
Getting Sucked in: The “Misery Loves Company” attempt at connectionSometimes, those we lead make Very Good Points™, and it is very difficult not to commiserate with them. It validates us when someone else has the same concerns we do and can help us feel less alone—a common issue among members of leadership. This is a dangerous practice that can lead to issues such as an oversharing across professional boundaries, the appearance of having a “favorite,” and worst of all, the undermining of the trust-respect relationship. As members of leadership, WE are the face of the inner workings of the organization. When we express our negativity, it is amplified in those further down the hierarchy.
Making it Personal: Defending, Diffusing, and DismissingOther times, we may take a complaint personally, causing us to feel defensive. To minimize the impact of the complaint, we may be dismissive and blow off their concerns. We may even complain about them to others for complaining, which does nothing short of increasing the us v. them mentality. It also breaks down trust. They may think, “If they talk about someone else like this when they aren’t around, what do they say about me?” We have more power than we think when it comes to culture, and though we cannot control what happens to us or in the greater organization, we can control how we react.
Instead: Turn Complaints into IdeasThese three easy steps can help turn those complaints into ideas:
- Acknowledge the complaint. *This doesn’t mean to agree with them! Recognize their concern and thank them for bringing this to your attention.
- Seek to Understand their complaint and Ask Them for a solution. Reframe their complaint in your own words to check for understanding. Ask them, “If this was in your power to fix, how would you handle this?” Then, empower and engage them as part of the solution.
- Publish Their Ideas and Share Them with others for feedback. Being loyal to the absent includes giving credit to others for their ideas. When they know they will be cited for their ideas, they are more likely to share them.
What About Venting?There are also times when someone is just mad about a situation and needs to get it out. It may be useful to begin a conversation with a question: “Do you want me to listen, or do you want me to do something?” People need safe spaces to vent their frustrations and providing this for them may deescalate a brewing situation.
Tip #4: Turn complaints into ideas by asking for solutions.
Durmaz, L. (2013). How to turn employee complaints into ideas. http://www.espninja.com/turn-employee-complaints-ideas/