Would you like some cheese with that whine? Well, for many of us that answer might be yes, especially if constant complaining and negative attitudes are filling our lives and workspace. It might seem easier to ignore workplace groans and moans, and hems and haws; however, confronting complaints and dealing with them head on can actually result in a happier, more committed workforce and more positive, productive workplace. When you are conscious of the office complaints and address gripes directly, they’ll be less likely to form an undercurrent of discontent and resentments that are counterproductive.

 Complaints are unpleasant. They instill contagious negativity into the environment, poison relationships and sabotage team efforts. Ok, it’s time to stop complaining about complaints. The point is that you want to nip inevitable office complaints with individuals before they have time to spread from desk to desk without resolution. Now, let’s get to the root of a complaint.

Everyone complains. Whether it’s about bosses, subordinates, peers, or oneself, most of us have an experience at work that we perceive as obstructing our well-being, growth and development. Albeit common, complaints are usually a dead end; they don’t change anything or solve any problems. In fact, they can create more problems with employees forming alliances, spreading rumors, and flourishing negative feelings.

Now, let’s learn how to turn complaints into a positive thing. When paying attention to complaints, you’re likely to find a seed of passion. For something someone can’t stand or about which is irked, there is usually an underlying reason or personal value that is not being honored, which is at the root of the conflict. Unlock the underlying value and there is productive conversation about what needs to be done in order to create meaningful change.

Here are some tips for helping employees become more conscious of their complaints:

  1. Explaining: A good rule of thumb is to acknowledge a person’s complaint first. You break down defenses when you “understand” or at least try to understand his or her issue. You’ve likely opened this person up and lessened his or her fiery emotions, and now, he or she will be more open to receive more information from you that would explain the situation and provide another perspective.
  2. Empathizing: Acknowledge the person’s complaint by actively listening and empathizing to help him or her accept the situation. If this employee feels like he or she can confide in his or her own boss about conflicts, it gives him or her less reason to go to other employees. Plus, knowing their boss cares about them on a personal level is a really effective way to make your employees more committed.
  3. Problem-solving: Hold back the defenses and explore solutions using problem-solving methods. Depending on your leadership style, you can direct or coach them to take action, or you may take action in agreeing to do something yourself to help fix the problem.

Complaints might be seen as a gateway to identifying and giving voice to personal commitments at work. It is a way to identify what people stand for, not just what they can’t stand. As a leader, it’s a powerful responsibility to take on shaping the company culture and community through managing the way in which complaints are dealt. A coach can help you to come up with a plan for being more consciously aware of complaints in your work setting, and devise a plan of action to change your company’s culture.

Lastly, even as a manager or executive, it’s fair and normal to have your own complaints! You can practice and share these same tips with your superiors for a happier, more productive company as a whole.

If you have a complaint brewing inside, ask yourself:

  1. What commitments or convictions do I hold that are implied in my complaint?
  2. What value is not being honored?
  3. What commitment do you have that is not being fully recognized by this situation?