One of the worst aspects of being a manager is fielding complaints from folks ranging from my boss to those outside my team about individuals on my team especially when those same people couldn't care less about the individual but more about how much of a f#@$ up they think they are.  Establish a solid and respectful working relationship with my guys?  Oh, perish the thought!  Thoughts on how to handle all this whining and complaining?  How open about these complaints should I be to the individuals on the team?  What should I say in response to the Debi Downers and complainers?

pucciot's picture
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Angelic Doctor :

First Watch this :

Complaints go up


I can understand your dilemma.  You seem like a High S.

So I'll try to communicate in that way.

I would suggest two (2) things.

1 - When a Direct gripes and complains ask them this Question:

"Are you telling me this because you just want to get it off your chest and feel better, or do you want something to change?”

Basically, during your O3's you can let them know that during an O3 they get that first 10-15 mins to talk about whatever they want.  You are just there to listen, ask some helpful questions.   Sort of like being a therapist.  You don't really have to do anything during that time but listen to them.  Often listening is all they need to feel better.   It is actually one of the wise and brilliant successful things about O3's.  It gives the Direct 10-15 mins every week to be listened to.

Never let them venture into personal insults.  Stop that cold.

Anywhere, anytime beyond that O3 - you cannot let a complaint become damage to any relationship in the organization, including yours.

Let them know ... with phrases such as ...

"Always assume positive intent"

"Remember we have to keep positive relationships with everyone in this organization"

And if there is pushback .... 

"Listen carefully, I always welcome constructive criticism about the organization, but I do not tolerate tearing down the team - not anyone from CEO, President, all the way down to the Janitor.  I am happy to listen to your concerns about how things are going, but I don't want to hear any personal attacks.  That is not professional behavior."


2 - Ask them if they think they understand the problem enough to make a helpful suggestion about how to solve it ?

Turn it back on them with some good questions such as ...

What would it look like if this problem were solved ?

Who would benefit ?

What else would have to be true for this to work the way you think it should ?


They will either learn that (beyond the 10 -15 mins in an O3) that you are not the gripe and complaint Bin.  And that neither are the other team members.

Griping and complaining is a behavior.  It is not Free-Speech in the workplace.  

And Instead of just trying to shut it down -- it would be wise to frist try to re-direct and try to incentivize or de-incetivize the behavior by how you react to it.

And Lastly ---   Stay Cool – Stay Frosty – Smile, be calm ..

Don’t let their emotional state dictate how you feel.


Good Luck





pucciot's picture
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Angelic Doctor :

I just realized I did not address the issue of Boss or Peer.


My suggestion is :

Make bland responses and then excuse yourself.


I would use some stock phrases :

"Well, yes, I can see where that is frustrating"

"That's sounds upsetting to you"

"It seems frustrating"

"I can see why that seems to bother you"

"Well, yeah, but I always try to assume positive intent"

All followed by 

"I don't have anytihng more to say about that or to add to what you just said".

"Please excuse me, I have somthing to take care of"

"I can see what you are saying, but, I just don't want to get into this right now"

Stay Frosty --- just acknowlege their feelings

-- You don't have to agree about thier truth or be dragged into the negative emotional hole.


Good Luck


angelicdoctor's picture

Thanks, TJPuccio!


Some of those are excellent responses and for the typical person outside my organization, these may be helpful.  For my boss, otoh, who is a High D type and a bulldog who.will.not.let.go.of.the.stick, I will need a little bit more, I'm afraid.  And again, should I relate any of this to the direct who is the target of such negativity either from the boss or otherwise?  If so, how much and in what way?