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Deal With Constant Complainers

By: Thomas Muller - Updated: 18 Oct 2016 | comments*Discuss
 
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Constant complainers are toxic element of the workplace that sap team morale and productivity, but how can we stamp out their poisonous sniping?

Complain Chronically

Every workplace has its chronic complainers. These aren’t constructive complainers, who highlight a problem with an aim to fixing it but who complain for the sake of complaining, without any positive purpose. They are never happy whatever the situation. Whether the boss is clueless, the weather too warm, the work is a waste of time - they strive to find a bad side to everything and then take great pains to point it out to everyone.

Constructive complaining can be a positive force for change in the workplace, but chronic complaining can have the opposite effect – it is a poisonous force that can slowly eat away at team morale and kill productivity.

But how can we deal with these troublesome employees without turfing them out of the office altogether?

Ineffective Responses

Unlike numerous other irritants, chronic complainers don’t eventually leave you in peace if you ignore them. In fact ignoring or avoiding them will likely have the opposite effect and make them more persistent in their efforts to be heard.

In fact, most of the common responses to constant complaints are largely ineffective to the hardened complainer. Trying to cheer them up by remarking that ‘it isn’t all that bad’, or offering some ‘try this’ solutions to their problems, or simply telling them to just stop complaining and pull themselves together – they all won’t do much good. Constant complainers are a notoriously difficult species to tame.

Positive Complaint Handling

Rather than ignoring, suppressing or avoiding constant complaints, the key to dealing with serial moaners is to welcome their complaints with open ears. The workplace should become a place where ALL complaints are given equal attention and consideration. Employees should be made to feel that if they have a problem with something then there will always be someone who will listen to what they have to say.

Too often chronic complainants moan because they know nobody with any authority is listening to them and taking their gripes seriously. They complain to their fellow colleagues but wouldn’t dare take up the issue with their boss or team leader.

If a climate of open discussion is promoted, where all complainants feel their problems are being heard then any unconstructive sniping will be exposed for what it is. If they are even aired at all – as well as being taken aback by this tactic, chronic complainers are often even silenced by it.

Supervisors, team leaders or other authority figures should listen to the complaint fully and then ask what the complainant what they want done and how they would improve things. You should make clear what you can and can’t do in your position and then, if possible, work towards a satisfactory solution.

Complaint Handling In The Workplace

For chronic complaints to be weeded out of the workplace it is important that fellow employees know how to deal with the negative element in their team.

Employees should resist the urge to join in on moaning sessions and agree with the complainer, even if they sympathise with some of the issues raised. Such negative forces grow stronger and more harmful the more people it draws in.

On the other hand, if you disagree with the complainant then it is unwise to argue with them. You should listen to their opinion carefully and then, if necessary, state where you stand on the issue, without making any rash judgements about what is right or wrong.

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[Add a Comment]
jake - Your Question:
My employer consistently threatens disciplinary action to its employees after they have been off work with genuine illnesses (even after procedure has been followed and a doctors note submitted and even with short term illness) Staff feel intimidated and scared to take time off because of their threats,surely this is illegal, is there anything that can be done about this ? (going to HR or a manager is a waste of time) and the complainant is usually subjected to further bullying,can anyone give some real advice ,how this issue can be addressed outwith the company and real action taken to stop this bullying culture ?Thank You

Our Response:
Employees should see if they can sort out the problem informally first. If they can’t, they should talk to their, manager, human resources (HR) department and/or their trade union representative. If you’re a worker and you’ve tried solving a problem or concern informally by talking to your manager but you’re not satisfied, you can make a formal grievance complaint in writing, please see link here . If this doesn’t work and they’re still being harassed, you can take legal action at an employment tribunal. Please also see ACAS link here and you may also wish to give ACAS a call.
ComplaintExpert - 19-Oct-16 @ 1:58 PM
My employer consistently threatens disciplinary action to its employees after they have been off work with genuine illnesses (even after procedure has been followed and a doctors note submitted and even with short term illness) Staff feel intimidated and scared to take time off because of their threats,surely this is illegal, is there anything that can be done about this ? (going to HR or a manager is a waste of time) and the complainant is usually subjected to further bullying,can anyone give some real advice ,how this issue can be addressed outwith the company and real action taken to stop this bullying culture ? Thank You
jake - 18-Oct-16 @ 10:20 PM
The problem for a boss is that constant complainers lower productivity. If every complaint is dealt with equally, then the constant complainer keeps taking time that could be spent on other things. I’d say each complaint should be weighed. Some will warrant investigation, but many won’t, and that’s probably the fairest way of dealing with things.
Meredith - 18-Sep-12 @ 3:25 PM
This is easier said than done. It's always hard to find an easy way to complain without it sounding like a personal dig at those in authority. Why not try and do it some other way? Like a suggestion box? It might be that the complains go down better if they're anonymous. That doesn't get round the fact that some people are just born complainers though :)
ItsADogsLife - 17-May-12 @ 10:10 AM
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