Not all staff complaints are created equal.
Done productively, complaints can actually provide valuable feedback and lead to improvements in operations.
Sometimes a complaint is simply a way for people to vent. If this is over and done with once the venting is complete – then it can be fine. If there is more to it, then it needs to be redirected into a more productive complaint.
And then there are the chronic and/or malicious complainers who are not helpful. Their pessimism can undermine your organization and sap energy.
According to a recent article in Harvard Business Review, here are some ideas for handling complaints
*Tackle Destructive Complaints Immediately. Don’t let these fester as they can undermine culture and productivity. Try your best to turn them around. For example, if the problem is “tone,” then they actually may be unaware of this. Tell them that productive complaining is welcome – but with the proper tone. Or – if they complain about the same thing continuously, and this is not going to change, then own that and tell them they either need to get over it or move on. Otherwise, you may need to move them off the team.
*With Other Complaints, Start with Interest and Curiosity. Thank the person for taking the time to share their concerns with you. Reinforce that productively sharing concerns can help all of you improve. Be sincere and listen carefully. Ask questions to make sure you understand all aspects of the concern. Take your time.
*Once the Person has been Fully Heard, Move to Solution. Don’t move onto this too quickly. Ask if they have ideas on how to solve the concern. If not, take some time to brainstorm. If you are unable to come up with a solution, then discuss who could serve on a task force to address this. Ask for their ideas. Move forward quickly to involve this group.
Continuous improvement is a long road. However, neutralizing your destructive complainers and embracing your productive team members can be very helpful to you along your road to excellence.
*Ideas for this blog taken from: Meister, A. & Dael, N. “4 Types of Employee Complaints – and How to Respond,” Harvard Business Review online, May 3, 2023.