Chronic Complainers: Positive Steps for Managers to Take

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As an employer, it’s important to create a positive and uplifting environment for your employees. Unfortunately, chronic complainers can often interfere with office morale and opinions. However, the better you understand what a chronic complainer is and how to address them, the better you’ll be able to work toward creating a favorable workplace environment. 

 

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What is a chronic complainer?

A chronic complainer is someone who consistently vocalizes their disappointment with the various aspects of their life. This type of person is often unhappy and feels as if nothing is ever to their standards or good enough for them. Rather than look at the positive, a chronic complainer focuses on the negative. They fixate on the various problems at hand without considering solutions. Chronic complainers have the potential to negatively affect those around them. This can become a large issue when dealing with chronic complainers in the workplace.

 

Related: Employee Satisfaction Surveys: What They Are and Why They’re Important for Your Business

 

Addressing a chronic complainer

As an employer, it’s important to address chronic complainers as they arise. The better you’re able to do this, the more positive your workplace will be. Encouraging positive workplace experiences and preventing chronic complainers helps boost company morale. Here are the steps to take when addressing a chronic complainer:

 

  1. Listen to their needs
  2. Validate and sympathize
  3. Redirect the situation
  4. Provide short, minimal advice
  5. If necessary, call out the behavior

1. Listen to their needs

When addressing a chronic complainer, it’s important to listen to what their needs are and address what they’re saying. They want to feel heard and know that you care about what they have to say. The complaint may be valid and something that needs to be addressed in the company. Make sure you’re being an active listener and that your attention is solely devoted to them. Allow them to vent while validating their complaints and concerns.

 

2. Validate and sympathize

Next, it’s important to validate their feelings by offering them support. You should also sympathize with how they’re feeling. Makes sure you’re being genuine and expressing true concern over their complaints. This will ensure they don’t shut you out or feel as though you’re being sarcastic.

 

3. Redirect the situation

When addressing a chronic complainer, it’s important to not only deflect but also redirect the situation or conversation. This involves you subtly changing the topic of conversation. When you do this, you’re allowing them to change their mindset and get back to the task at hand rather than focusing on their disappointment. 

 

4. Provide short, minimal advice

Though most chronic complainers aren’t very accepting of advice, if you choose to give it or if they ask you for advice, make sure to keep it brief. This will increase the odds of them not rejecting it outright. Consider asking them how they plan to rectify the problem they’re facing. 

 

5. If necessary, call out the behavior

In some cases, you may need to call out their behavior. It’s important to note that this step should be avoided if at all possible, however, if the situation warrants it, it’s best to directly address them. Consider asking them if they want your advice on the matter. Be understanding and keep it brief. If they answer "yes" to your question, they’re giving you permission to share your opinion. When you respond, you’re simply doing what they asked.

 

Tread lightly when doing this step since you’ll risk them not wanting to hear you out at all. If done successfully, they’ll come to see their habit of complaining and how they’re being perceived by others.

 

Related: How to Motivate Your Employees

 

Three crucial concepts

There are three crucial concepts when it comes to addressing and understanding chronic complainers in the workplace. In order to effectively address chronic complainers, it’s important to consider these concepts. They are as follows:

 

  • Understanding their mindset: Since you’ll need to validate and listen to the chronic complainer you’re addressing, it’s important that you’re able to understand where they’re coming from. Chronic complainers often feel as though nothing can ever go right for them. They often look at the negative side of things. Consider how they feel when addressing them.
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  • Know their needs or wants: Another important concept when it comes to addressing chronic complainers is understanding what they ultimately want or need. They’re often looking for validation and sympathy. Understand their specific needs to help them get into a more positive headspace.
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  • Understanding what they don’t need or want: Lastly, it’s important to consider what the chronic complainer doesn’t need. In offering advice, for example, they could feel that this takes away from what they’re going through. Make sure to validate their complaints and concerns rather than focusing on something that can deter their positive mindset.

 

Leadership FAQs

Here are some common FAQs in regards to leadership and chronic complainers:

 

What are some tips for dealing with chronic complainers in a leadership role?

When dealing with chronic complainers, it’s important to set expectations for your employees. Make sure the company’s values are upheld and that employees know what’s being asked of them. It’s also important to observe your employees, reach out to them and ask them to offer their input on the workplace environment. As an employer or company leader, it’s also important to quickly recognize when chronic complainers need to be addressed. This should be done in a timely manner in order to avoid them affecting the rest of the workplace.

 

How can you foster a positive work environment?

In order to create a positive and uplifting environment at work, it’s important to be a good communicator, an active listener, show recognition, have fun and overall, be an exceptional leader. The more open communication you promote, the more comfortable your employees will feel coming to you about their praises or concerns. It’s also important to have fun in the workplace and to not solely focus on the heavy or strenuous tasks of the day.

 

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