If there is one thing that can create a destructive and toxic culture it is when the most common mode of organizational communication is whining. As opposed to productive criticism of things that can and need to be addressed, whining is simply complaining that things aren’t as we would like them to be. It is a social invitation that says, “I’m miserable. Join me and we can be miserable together.”
Of course, the fact of the matter is that there is a lot to whine about today. Many of your employees and followers are facing enormous stress from changing financial conditions and the ongoing pressures of the economy, the environment and the general chaos that seems to be predominant in life. With political stalemate and the ridiculous goings on in government, it seems that the chaos will be around for awhile. And you’re probably not the perfect boss and you probably don’t work for or run the perfect company. Salaries could be better, benefits could be better…surely whining is as understandable as it is annoying.
The thing about whining is that it comes from one place…a feeling of powerlessness. We complain when we feel there is nothing we can do…or when we don’t want to take the accountability to do something. So, sort that out with your employees. Are the things that they are complaining about within our control? Are they things that are within the employees control?
If the problem exceeds any influence by either you or your employees, then sit down and talk about the reality of the situation. Discuss how long the condition can be expected and, if it’s long-term, help your employees understand that whining only gives the situation power…it distracts and depresses them. Help them at least recognize what is good about the situation, even if it isn’t perfect.
If the whine is about something you have control over, then consider changing it. If it can’t be changed, or you simply don’t want to for some reason, then again, have a discussion with your employees to ensure that they understand the situation.
If the whining is about something that THEY can have control over, then either give it to them or remind them that it is in their power to make a change. There’s nothing more draining than a group of people who have decided they are powerless when they simply either don’t know they have the ability or don’t care to take the initiative. Let them know that either they do something about the situation or learn to live with it, but that whining creates that toxic environment for everybody. Often you will find a critical mass who is also tired of being a part of the whining crusade and will take it on themselves to make whatever changes need to be made.
This may be more than one discussion and issues tend to fall somewhere in-between the descriptions above. But they can be addressed and resolved if you take the time to talk to your employees, truly listen to what they are saying, and then give their input honest consideration. Closing the loop and coming to some kind of resolution can go a long way in making the work environment productive again.