Positivity Preferred asks:  Every day at work is like a contest to see who can complain the most. I’ve been clear that I don’t want to be part of their Complaining Club, but it’s hopeless. Not an hour goes by without somebody telling me something that’s wrong. I know a positive culture has to start at the top, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen. Is there a way to stop constant negativity?

Accidental Career replies:  What did you expect? They’re all idiots! Oh, wait – that was negative, wasn’t it?

Instead, let’s try understanding – and you get some first. Your concern is valid – and shows that you have constructive team awareness. Employees who want to change a negative culture know that their organization and their own livelihood will benefit from a shift in attitude. You’re worth more to your organization than an employee who’s guided by negativity.

Complaining is Hard Work

Workers who slog all day through a negative swamp leave work exhausted and show up the next day asking, “What else will go wrong to make me unhappy?” Their agenda doesn’t include meeting team needs or finding creative energy to solve challenges.

Before we talk about solutions, however, you get a mild scolding. You said, “…it’s hopeless.” Yikes! Is that a negative complaint? From the person who wants to eliminate negativity? Before you undertake being a change agent for the positive, please sit down and literally re-write that sentence to reflect the positive attitude and commitment that your overall question implies.

Really. Go sit down and write your concern in a positive tone before you address the problem.

Good. Now we can talk about solutions. Start with reminding yourself that complaints are positive because the person bringing the complaint thinks the situation will improve if the right person hears their concern – and they further think that you might be the right person! Those are positives!

As for the tone that makes complaining so annoying, you can choose how to respond. You get to elect whether to let a negative voice shape your day.

When somebody tells you what they see as wrong, thank them for wanting to improve the situation. To win over complainers, you must give them respect.

Wait-a-minute – you just said that you don’t respect complainers? And silly PayCheckChaCha is suggesting that you give those complainers your respect? Exactly!

A complainer’s problem is that they don’t think their point of view is being respected, so they have no tool other than complaining. To encourage them to use more positive strategies, you begin by showing them respect.

To Join Their Team

When you say, “I don’t want to listen to that,” it makes them ‘wrong’ and they’ll repeat the complaint more forcefully to make themselves feel ‘right.’

When you ask, “What are you doing about it?” you give them a personal challenge which let’s them know that you aren’t on their team.

So your tactic is to let them see that you care about them while maintaining organizational respect. The question is, “What do you think we can do to help our organization get stronger?”

Why say ‘we’ when it’s ‘their’ problem? To let them feel the power of a team. If you don’t express interest in hearing a solution, then the complaining mind makes you part of the problem – and the logical target of complaints.

This is a fork in the road – do they have an idea for a solution?

If they respond with a positive suggestion, you praise them for positivity and encourage their leadership.

If they can’t or won’t be solution-oriented, then they either lack creative leadership ability or they complain just for the pleasure of hearing their own whine. Don’t waste time arguing about their point of view; simply acknowledge their feelings – their feelings, not their negativity – and shift focus to something positive.

“I can see that you’re concerned about that. It must be frustrating. Let’s keep thinking about a way to make it better while we work on our other projects. We can let each other know if we get any helpful ideas.” You’ve just let them feel heard without jumping into the pit of despair with them.

The Complaining Club you mentioned recruits unhappy members to meet regularly and discuss their discontent. Since you know they’re easy to recruit, your job is to invite them to a meeting of the Positivity Club. Anybody who’s ever joined a club knows that fun meetings are the first thing we look for. Instead of complaining about the complainers, just plan a better meeting and let them join you.

Don’t fight the complainers – give them respect and opportunity while you set an example with your positive outlook.

“Some people complain that the stepping stones to success bruise their feet.”

E-mail your workplace concerns to PayCheckChaCha@AccidentalCareer.com.


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