Creative Leadership

Shocking News About Complainers

You’d be surprised at how many times I start working with a new client, only to have someone on their team pull me aside to complain about how the organization is run, or the incompetent leadership, or the mission. I know other people who constantly complain about their job, co-workers, schedule, and more. The bottom line is that there are far too many people complaining and not nearly enough making things happen. Here’s a shocking statistic I read recently: 78% of people who were fired last year, weren’t fired because of mistakes, incompetence, or lack of skill. They were fired because they couldn’t get along with other people at work.

Admit it: How much time to you spend complaining about your problems to people who can’t help you solve them?

The book of Philippians in the New Testament says, “Do all things without grumbling.”  That’s good advice. Stop thinking it will help, because it doesn’t. Here’s a list of what complaining will not do:

1. It won’t impress your boss.
2. It won’t impress your friends. (Sure they might agree with you, but it won’t make you look like a world changer.)
3. It won’t help you as a leader.
4. It won’t help your attitude (or results).
5. It won’t create relationships with people who matter.
6. It won’t build a winning culture in your organization.

Here’s the policy at our media production company Cooke Media Group:  I encourage my team to zero in on problems, but don’t come to me with a problem unless you at least have some initial ideas about how to fix it.

Want to impress your boss, your clients, or your co-workers?  Stop complaining about problems and start being obsessed with solutions. Become known at your workplace as the “solution person” and watch how things change for the better.

How about you? Do you work with complainers? How do you deal with them?

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7 Comments

  1. What do you do when you offer solutions, but they are never acted on, never taken very seriously, and management seems more interested at keeping you at arms length rather than genuinely collaborating? I agree completely with what you are saying, but the corporate culture at my job does not seem to even allow for that kind of collaboration. When we (as in most employees, not just me) offer solutions they are met with some excitement, but then nothing is done. It seems they are just appeasing us and have no interest in really doing what we suggest because ultimately it would make it seem like they are not fulfilling their jobs. Its just very infuriating to be passionate, care about what you do and to see so many decisions made but upper management that seem to be very disconnected from what would benefit their overall product. I feel it is a very unhealthy corporate culture that produces managers, but not leaders. I feel they are very unclear about their vision.I want to help but just feel very marginalized. What is the best way to move forward?

    1. It’s tough in today’s job market, but sometimes the best way to move forward is to move elsewhere. If your options are as limited as you described, I’m not sure there is a way forward in that culture. It’s one of the reasons I believe culture trumps vision every time. No matter how great an organization’s vision, if it has a lethargic, or dying culture, then it won’t move forward. I’m a big fan of the “Go where you are celebrated, not just tolerated” philosophy. Sounds like your gifts might be better used elsewhere.

  2. So good, Phil!

    Negativity and Inspiration are definitely 2 of the most contagious things in existence.

    I can’t offer much on how to “fix” complainers. I just try to inspire them. If you ever want to see a room light up, ask everyone to talk about what inspires them. Faces light up, the room changes, it’s remarkable. I truly believe inspiration fosters the growth of exceptional people. Often what makes exceptional people exceptional is their ability to live-inspired.

    If someone’s determined to be miserable, though, there’s not much to do but avoid them like the plague lest ye too go down with the ship.

  3. I’m really thankful for this article as my attitude has been on the critical side recently. Thanks for the boost and adjustment!

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