Fix It. Achieve in Spite of It. Or Quit.
I have a dear friend who spends much of her energy complaining about the same issues over and over again without taking action to improve the situation. After countless conversations covering the same matters, she kicked into her normal rant on the phone with me. Typically, I listen supportively, advise where appropriate and then end the call. On this particular day, I realized I had no more support to give and I told her, "Fix it, achieve in spite of it, or quit. Those are your only options. Complaining isn't helping solve anything at this point."
I believe this to be a quality-of-life issue. For folks who have fallen into the trap of habitual complaining, each day must be unsatisfying to always be so unhappy. Staying in a bad situation and complaining about it will never improve your circumstance-and especially won't improve your outlook.
Guy Winch wrote in his article, "The Squeaky Wheel," published in Psychology Today, "Today we associate the act of complaining with venting far more than we do with problem solving. As a result, we complain simply to get things off our chest, not to resolve problems or to create change, rendering the vast majority of our complaints completely ineffective."
Complaining at this level is damaging to one's own personal well-being and overall mood, but here is the real clincher, managers, business owners and industry leaders: Complaining and negativity is infectious. Consulting psychologist and management consultant Carl Robinson noted, "A pervasive culture of negativity bleeds the organization of its ability to bounce back and recover when it really needs to." This is where organizationally, we must step in and turn the tide. Everyone is going to get frustrated from time to time and complain, but as a manager, the key is to turn those complaints toward a solution so progress can be made.
Here are a couple of quick tips from Robinson's article, "The No Complaining Rule":
1. Get your group together and explain the cost of negativity and complaining.
2. Discuss the difference between mindless and mindful complaining; mindless complaining focuses on problems, whereas justified complaining focuses on solutions.
3. Listen to complaints and solutions and give all of them their airtime. Not all solutions will be used, but let your team know that they will be heard and considered.
4. Celebrate successes of people who turned their complaints into solutions and innovations that benefited the organization.
I don't know if my advice to my friend-"Fix it, achieve in spite of it, or quit"-will equate to change, but it did get me thinking about the positive impact leadership can have on the workforce complaint culture. We all spend a great many hours at our profession. If we are doing this thing right, those hours should be mostly productive and positive.