Wednesday: Whining Employees


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I’ve never worked with, at or for a company that does not have one or two chronic whiners.  No matter what you introduce, they find fault.  These are the people that complain about a free meal (“Pizza for lunch? We had that last time. Why can’t we ever get anything else?”).  Ah, how pleasant.

Several years ago, I was working with a company to help enhance their coaching skills.  All of the people I met were in positions of leadership.  On one of the breaks, a gentleman approaches me and begins a conversation about their holiday party. He stated that it was the worst one yet. They were finally allowed to invite a spouse/significant other. Upon arrival, he said there was barely any food left. To paraphrase, “My wife got a first hand experience of how cheap this company really is…running out of food! Can you believe that?  Then they send people out for chips and order some pizza.  How tacky.”  I responded by saying something like, “Sounds like you were disappointed.” Way to add fuel to that fire. He ranted for 5 more minutes.

On the next break, I avoided eye contact with him. I was speaking with a newer employee, and she asked me, “Did you hear about our holiday party?!”  I wanted to run. She continued, “It was the BEST! My fiance and I got there after it started and there was no food left. Our CEO is calling pizza places and asking ME what I liked on my pizza! He doesn’t even know me and I just started working here! Then, he hands my fiance money and asks if he would mind going with some others to pick up chips and dip. How cool is that?”  She went on and on about how excited she was to finally be working for a company where they cared about their employees and where the CEO connected with everyone.

Same event, different interpretations. As a coach, how do you deal with chronic complainers if stun guns are not an option?

Here are some common employee complaints coaches have shared with me.  I’ve added some possible responses to consider.

Employee: Why do we have to do it this way? We’ve never done it this way before?

Coach: You’re right. We are using a new approach. What concerns you most about using a new approach?

Employee: Do they have any idea how busy we are? They keep calling us with the same questions!

Coach: You’re right. We work in a fast paced department. What ideas do you have to help other departments find this information on their own?

Employee: Why do I have to attend that training?  It doesn’t even apply to me.  What a waste of my time!

Coach: There may be some parts of the training that do not directly impact what you do.  I want you to listen for things that do apply to you and tell me about them after the training.  I’d also encourage you to attend the training with an open mind; my expectation is that you challenge yourself to discover something new and connect with at least one person from another department.

I could go on and on with complaints that coaches have brought to my attention.  Yet you’ll notice a pattern in the responses I’ve provided.  The coach validates what is true within the complaint, then challenges the employee in a non-threatening manner to work toward a solution.  If every complaint is addressed this way, eventually the complainers will learn that you will hold them accountable for solutions, and that despite their complaining you are not going to change your course of action.  This should lessen the number of complaints you hear (as long as you are consistent with your responses).  Whiners want an audience.  Don’t give them one.  Give them a coach.

If you have other ideas about dealing with whiners and complainers, please share them.  You’ll be helping a coach who is currently hiding under their desk in an attempt to avoid the chronic complainer!

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Jen Kuhn
Jennifer Kuhn is a talented, energetic and enthusiastic consultant, trainer and speaker. She has provided thousands of employees, coaches and executives with guidance while they work to enhance their professional skill development. Jen's approach has been hailed by participants who were initially skeptical or resistant. Her unique and non-threatening style wins over the most jaded employee that allows them to learn and grow within their organization.


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