Complaints can be Toxic

Negative words have a way of hanging around long after they’ve been spoken. People are likely to remember the insults or words of disappointment hurled their way, while words of encouragement fall to the wayside. Workplace complaints are one of the worst offenders.

You want your employees to associate their workplace and co-workers with positive thoughts. Work should be a place that people enjoy going to. Employees should feel valued and respected in the workplace. When they don’t complaints emerge.

Complaints are a source of toxic energy. They fester and bring everyone down time and time again. When the break room becomes the complaint station, or employees do nothing but gripe on their lunch breaks, you’ve got a major workplace issue.

As a leader, it falls to you to turn that headspace from negative to positive. Your employees are telling you something through their complaints. Listen to what it is. Are people upset about a company policy or the office culture? By breaking down what people are upset about and quantifying it you’ll be better able to broach the issue with them.

See their complaints as a chance to open the floor up to discussion. You already know they have plenty of thoughts and feelings about the issue (or issues). They want to talk. Give them a safe space to do so in a manner that is productive. Show your employees you respect them by meeting with them in person to address the issue. Listen attentively and ask questions. Make eye contact. When people feel heard they feel respected. When people feel respected, they are more willing to compromise and work with you to come to a mutual understanding.

If the complaints in your office don’t warrant a meeting but you still want to change the atmosphere, there are other solutions. Create an email account where people can direct suggestions, comments or yes, even complaints. Check this email once a week and follow-up with them in order of urgency.

Generally speaking, you want to cultivate an open atmosphere. Shift your office from the mindset of ‘I want to complain’ to the mindset of ‘I want to work towards a solution.’ By showing them that you are willing to put in the work to make that change, you inspire them to do so as well.

Remind your employees they are teammates. Your office is a place where people succeed or fail together. Tell them you want to foster a place of success. Attitude reflects leadership, so when you have a positive and motivating attitude, so too will your employees.