How to deal with Moaners and Whiners
Do you spend a disproportionate amount of your time listening to team members moaning and complaining about things? And do you then spend more time trying to sort it out for them? Maybe making phone calls, sending emails, talking to other departments, or finding out more details and information?
You may feel it’s your job as a manager to sort this. That it shows your support for your team member. I’m afraid, most of the time, you would be wrong. If someone comes to you whining and moaning and you take responsibility for dealing with it, what have they learned? They’ve learned that they don’t need to think for themselves. That when there’s a problem they just need to tell you and leave it with you. And most importantly, they don’t need to grow and develop because you will take the load.
Even when they have a valid concern I would argue that the first thing to do as a manager is to leave responsibility with them and support them to tackle it. So, the obvious question is “how?” The answer is, “by taking a coaching approach.”
- Demonstrate you are listening. Notice I didn’t just say listen. The other person needs to KNOW you are listening. It might seem more time consuming but actually the interaction is likely to go on much longer if your team member doesn’t feel heard.
- Ask quality questions rather than providing suggestions and solutions. This will show them you are listening, help them to think things through, and keep responsibility with them.
- Ask them what they want. When people are caught up in complaining, feeling hard done by, and blaming other things, it’s really difficult to focus on what they want as an outcome. Shift the focus on to outcomes and break the cycle of moaning about what is happening or not happening in the moment.
- Ask them what their options are. People in this situation feel disempowered so you will need to ask questions that raise their awareness and encourage ownership. This is the opportunity to repeatedly use one of my favourite coaching questions, “what else?”
- If you are successful in getting the person to identify what they want and what options are available to them, you can move onto what they are going to do. If not, if the person is still too caught up in the emotion or the detail of it all, arrange to meet up again, probably later that day to hear their desired outcome and options, once they’ve had time to reflect and free up their thinking.
People who habitually moan and complain suck the life out of you and the rest of the team. Is it possible that in your efforts to support them you might be perpetuating the problem?
How do you handle it?