Why Complainers Will Ultimately Sink Your Ship


You’ve likely heard the expression that one bad apple can spoil the whole barrel. In the case of workplace complaints, this axiom holds especially true. An employee who complains has the ability to not only stall his or her own productivity, they can severely impact the productivity of others and in turn strike some major blows to your business.

Whiners and complainers are toxic in work environments. Although they may be qualified, hard workers, a complainer ultimately is a destructive force. This is because a chronic complainer looks for weaknesses in your dealership and then instead of approaching them constructively, opts to enlarge upon them. Rather than looking for ways to fix problems, a whiner will fixate on the problem itself because they thrive on the attention that comes from noticing issues. Unfortunately, their negativity rarely stays isolated, but rather spreads as they share their complaints with others. Suddenly, something that never bothered the rest of the office will become a sore point.

So though one might be tempted to imagine the complaints will eventually die down, or that taking care of the source of the complaint will solve the problem, the reality is that if you have a complainer on your hands you are dealing more with a viral virus than a 24-hour flu. Eliminating the source of the complaint will only force the complainer to find another thing to whine about because they crave the spotlight that being the company whistleblower gives them. Therefore, if you have a complainer on your hands, it’s vital that you nip the behavior in the bud, otherwise they’ll ultimately sink your ship.

The first step is to identify the complainer. As mentioned above they may even seem to be your most qualified or hardest working employee. The key is to look at what they are saying more than what they are doing. If you suspect there’s a complainer in your midst, try to see who is the one talking the most with others during breaks, as a complainer will usually socialize more in order to maximize their news. Often they’ll speak in hushed tones, or seem furitive when you’re around. You should also look at someone who asks consistently negative questions during meetings. They’re the ones that constantly seem to find the glass half empty, and will try to poke holes in any new policy you bring up.

Once identified, there are a number of ways you can freeze them in their complaining tracks. The first is to take care of the source of their current complaint. While, as stated before, this won’t solve the problem, it should buy you enough time to deal with other aspects of the complainer.

Next, find ways to give the complainer the spotlight in positive ways. Complainers want attention, but usually seek it in toxic ways. Help them get their fix without being destructive. For example, give them important tasks they can brag about. This way, they have news to spread that makes them feel special, without bringing down the company.

Another strategy is to isolate them from others. This doesn’t necessarily take the form of burying them in their cubicle under a pile of work. Consider sending them out on errands when errands need to be run, or having them work one-on-one with you or someone else who will be immune to their whining. In this way, you keep them from spreading their negativity and can model better behaviors.

Finally, if you see that nothing is working, consider having them either transferred or let go. While this is never a desirable step, if a complainer isn’t taken care of efficiently and effectively, the damage they can have on overall moral is so harmful, it is better to do without them.