by Ruaidhri Horan, Marketing Manager, Abrivia Recruitment
In most offices the length and breadth of Ireland, there is usually one person who is constantly moaning and complaining on a daily basis. In some cases, let’s call them less fortunate offices, there may be a number of moaners, who are causing untold damage to staff morale within their own organisations.
Even the strongest and most positive sales teams have been known to crumble after the introduction of a moaner into their team. Someone who constantly complains can cause a drop in morale and negativity can rapidly spread throughout the organisation. Words such as “I can’t”, “I don’t think we have what it takes” point to a very unhappy and negative co-worker.
How does a typical moaners day commence?
The first moan of the day may be in regards the weather. The second moan could be in regards the temperature in the office. The third moan of the day will often be in regards internet connection speed. The fourth moan may be in regards the boss and why didn’t they do what they said they would do. Then the moaner will move onto the government, society being messed up and perhaps something on TV they don’t like. Then back to moaning about awkward customers and co-workers who they consider slackers. And this is just the first ten minutes of the workday. Does the above person sound familiar?
How do you handle office Moan ?
If someone is constantly grumbling at you, tell them politely you are busy at the moment and you will get back to them later. Often the spontaneous moan will have dissipated by the time you get back to them. Do this on a daily basis and eventually they will get fed up confiding their petty grievances with you.
Of course, we don’t live in a utopia and everyone is entitled to a grumble from time to time. Often it you don’t complain, nothing gets done. However, this is very different to someone whose every utterance during the day is a complaint, which is having a hugely detrimental effect on office morale.
Whilst everyone acknowledges that a person who constantly whines and complains can rapidly create a toxic working environment, the real challenge is how as a manager you deal with such a person before a whining contagion spreads throughout your organisation, to the detriment of your organisation.
As a first port of call you need to monitor and note whether the employee is constantly complaining as this may be a perceptual issue on your part. You may have only had a few interactions with the employee where they complained. However, this has really irked you and you quickly classified them as a moan. This is not fair on the employee so you need to challenge all your assumptions, all the time.
Have a one to one with the employee and ask them directly what grievances they have. Review these complaints with your employee and have a frank and open discussion in regards the legitimacy of their grievances.
If after the meeting, the employee is still complaining about every matter under the sun and poisoning the atmosphere in your office, have another 15 minutes one to one and discuss potential solutions to their grievances. Let the employee suggest a solution and assess whether it is an actual runner. If the subject of most their grievances is a person, you should meet with the other person privately to get their side of the story. It there is a clear standoff, ask the complaining employee to make a formal complaint and get your HR department to act as a facilitator and adjudicate on the issue. Also request that all parties stop gossiping and complaining until the situation is resolved.
It, despite the above process, your employee continues relentlessly in complaining to his/her colleagues, disciplinary action may be the only last resort, especially if their behaviour is in breach of company policy and it there is ample proof that they are harassing other employees and perhaps neglecting their own duties, leading to poor performance. Get legal advice prior to going down the disciplinary route if complaints are relating to something contentious like discrimination (your actions could be regarded as retaliatory). However, if complaints clearly consist of baseless allegations against co-workers, that is a totally different matter.
Constructive complaining should always be welcome. However, continuous and needless moaning and complaining needs to be tackled head on, it you wish to protect positive morale in your workplace.