Article: Dealing with chronic complainers at workplace

Employee Relations

Dealing with chronic complainers at workplace

Isnt the AC too cold?, Why is the Wi-Fi so slow?, Why do we have only 30 minutes lunch break?' -- These are some unnecessary bytes which are quite distrubing if you happen to hear this regularly at work. So how will you deal with them?
Dealing with chronic complainers at workplace

Dealing with chronic complainers isn’t an easy task as well. The constant negativity rubs off, and you might start seeing things gloomier than they really are, and it might actually start affecting your performance.

Look around you. Look at the people you work with. Chances are they are a good lot. They are polite, funny, kind, and helpful, or at least they are one of these. But every group has that one person that generally annoys everyone else. We’re talking about a special kind of annoyance here, the one that’s constant and can turn on in a second, without warning. Ladies and gentlemen, behold the chronic complainer. 

It is worthy to spend some time and space in actually describing who chronic complainers are. From the moment they enter office, like clockwork their day begins by complaining about the traffic or the overcrowded metro. Then they go onto complain about the amount of sugar in the morning tea. ‘Isn’t the AC too cold?’, ‘Why is the Wi-Fi so slow?’, ‘Why do we have only 30 minutes lunch break?’, ‘Why do our laptops still run on Windows 8?’ and the list goes on. Chronic complainers are a unique type of people. They can find almost anything to complain about, just about anything under the sun. Psychological research suggests that some deeper issue, at their home, or a personal level is bothering them, which makes them seek this sort of emotional validation from the people around them, and more often than not, they fail to realise they are being overly critical of things around them. 

Dealing with chronic complainers isn’t an easy task as well. The constant negativity rubs off, and you might start seeing things gloomier than they really are, and it might actually start affecting your performance. Cheering them up, or suggesting solutions to problems generally evoke a bigger and more intense episode of complaining. A worse thing you can probably do is complain about the complainer – in your team informally, or to your manager, formally. Ignoring them or joining their chorus or confronting them doesn’t work either. So how do you deal with a chronic complainer in your workplace?

Bring them to speed: As mentioned above, many a times, complainers do not realise that are being extremely negative about things around them. Try to gently break to them, and come up with a system where you bring up a red flag every time they go down that spiral. Once you are able to make them realise that they complained about 39 things today, chances are they will get the message. Pinpoint the exact time and instance where they become hyper-critical and go on a complaining rant.

Socialise with them in a group: Socialise with chronic complainers in groups of 3 or more. Avoid being with them alone, for then you will be at the receiving end of all their negative talk. In a group – the talk will be divided amongst all, and since the complainer will want to prove that their misery is the biggest of all in the group, they will constantly engage with all and not just focus all the negativity on you alone. 

No to sarcasm or laughing off the issues: You do not know or understand what made them the hyper-critical person that they are today; hence, you do not have to right to belittle the issues they bring up. Sure, they might try to make it sound like everything in their life is wrong, but replying with sarcasm, wit or humour, or trying to laugh off the problems they talk about isn’t going to solve anything. If anything they will have something new to complain about: you and your insensitivity. 

No advice or assistance unless asked: The purpose of the constant complaining is hardly every soliciting advice from the listener – so refrain from giving it, no matter how tempted you may feel. If you want to really let them know a different perspective, begin asking them if they want your opinion to begin with. Instinctive human nature will get you a reply in the affirmative. Then begin by stating that “I hear what you are saying, and understand where you are coming from, but I also think that .....”

If everything fails; go along with it or draw the line: If helping them realise, reducing social contact, or making them see a different perspective fails, you just have two options left. One, let things stay as they are, and two, draw a firm line with them about the things they can talk about – things which do not involve complaining. The latter will either make them amend their ways, or naturally reduce communication between you both. 

Consider chronic complainers like smokers. They go around making puffs of smoke, and not only harm them self with the negative outlook with which they see the world, but also harm the people around them, just like passive smoking does. Complainers are most likely lovely people in all other respects, they just probably fail to realise their own shortcoming in this area, and there is no harm in letting them know the same. Either which way, dealing with chronic complainers isn’t easy, never has been and never will be. 

How have you dealt with chronic complainers at your workplace? Let us know!

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Topics: Employee Relations, Employee Engagement

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