For some people, complaining is their default communication style. Often, they don’t even realize they’re a complainer because it is such an engrained habit. I worked with a woman once who looked at everything with a negative filter. She could take a positive situation and turn it into a negative one within seconds. I found myself starting to time her to see how long it would take to turn a topic into a negative one. I knew I had to put an end to her chronic complaining when, during a team meeting, I witnessed several team members visibly deflate when she started talking.
We can laugh at characters like SNL’s, Debby Downer, but when you’re forced to work beside such a person each day it becomes a drain.
What is saddest about the chronic complainer, is that their complaining is an outcome of the negative thoughts rattling around in their heads even before they open their mouths. If you don’t like their complaining, think how dark their unspoken thoughts are!
Managers who ignore these Debbie Downers, do so at their own risk. Complainers erode the morale of their co-workers becoming an energy drain for an entire department.
Dealing with Complainer
So how do you deal with the chronic complainer? Talk to them privately to share your observations. Ask for their idea of a solution. By doing so, you are acknowledging them but turning the focus to solutions. Ask open ended questions such as, “What would you like to see happen?” or “What ideas do you have to make things better?” Make it clear that people are always welcome to bring up concerns, but that you want to hear solutions. The difference between idle complaining and an opportunity is the addition of potential solutions.