Workplace Whiners

17 Oct

A recent article in the WS Journal had an interesting article on workplace whiners.  The discussion of the negative effects was very good. The suggestion that whiners can be “fixed” by co-workers fell short of the mark.  Trying to alter the behavior of a co-worker is very problematic and poorly done can create more problems that it solves.

Unmentioned was the best person to handle whiners is the whiner’s manager.  This is a reasonable responsibility for a manager as whining negatively affects productivity.

Even for a skilled manager this is a risky endeavor.  Here are some ideas to start.  In working with such a person you must frame the issue so they are not offended and turn the discussion into an argument.  Arguing with a whiner is like arguing with a 3-year old – you are not going to “win.”  Have a tactic in mind and wait for a moment when it will work, always in private.  It is usually best to begin with a question to frame the discussion, identify the issue and hint at possible avenues for change.  These three criteria are hard to meet.

Assuming you can manage this first encounter successfully you must be tenacious and stay with the issue.  People who whine get lots of attention and will not change unless there is motivation to do so.  A manager can provide this motivation.

My most successful attempt at this occurred when I noted to the office whiner how the mood of groups seemed to change when she entered them and perhaps she could begin her comments by starting with a positive statement and then noting others’ reactions.

This is a topic requiring more time so I may write a more in-depth article.  If so, it will appear in a future blog.

Or you could just leave a copy of the article on the whiner’s desk – so subtle.

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