Who can best nurture the seeds of change?

Your organizational culture is not what you define, design, or target. Culture is the sum of many small habits that add up to your culture.

For example, do you have a complaint about team members who complain?

Complaining, you logically point out, will not move your organization in a positive direction – it merely slaps another coat of cheap varnish on a negative culture.

Your concern about organizational attitude is valid awareness of the energy that drives achievement … or decay. Employees who want to redirect a negative culture understand that their organization and their own livelihood will benefit from a constructive shift in attitude. You’re worth more to your organization than an employee who trudges along in negativity.

But who is the logical person to lead the change? Upper management can give the orders, but they aren’t positioned to effectively to exert day-to-day influence on the foundations of your culture. Front line employees aren’t in a position to make a sweeping pronouncement about the expected culture – their sphere of influence is the aforementioned ‘day-to-day influence on the foundations of your culture.’ That’s because front-line employees are that foundation. Anything they lack in authority they make up for in point-of-contact presence.



It’s easy to understand why you might feel that it’s hopeless – and that’s where you start: Don’t wait for upper management to set the correct tone – apply your desire for positivity to your own perspective.

YOU are the starting line

Workers who spend the day slogging through negativity will drag themselves out exhausted and show up the next day wondering, “What else will go wrong to make me unhappy?”  Their agenda is fear-and-failure oriented, and doesn’t address meeting team needs or finding creative energy to solve challenges.

Before we talk about solutions, however, you get a mild scolding for complaining about the complainers. Yikes! Is that negativity from the person who wants to eliminate … negativity? Before you undertake being a change agent for positivity, please re-write your statement to reflect the positive attitude and commitment that your position implies.

Really. Go sit down and write your concern in a positive tone before you address the problem. You’re embarking on a hero’s journey to convince your whole team to adopt a positive attitude – guess who goes first?

Complaining is hard work

Good. Now we can talk about solutions. Start with reminding yourself that complaints are positive because the person bringing the complaint thinks the situation may 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 choose how to respond. You get to elect whether to let a negative voice shape your day.

Appreciate complaints

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 say that you don’t respect complainers? And silly Accidental Career 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, 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 good do you think complaining will do?” you let 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 working on a solution, then the complaining mind makes you part of the problem – and an ongoing target of complaints.

Looking for Mr. Good Idea

This is the 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 the focus to positive action.

“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 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 where it’s more fun to be positive – 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 stepping stones to success hurt their feet.”


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