When--and how--do you confront a dramatic colleague? Just follow these steps.
“Is your company losing money because of constant complainers?”
That question opens Stop Complainers and Energy Drainers, a new book by workplace communication expert Linda Swindling. We all know that complainers sap us of positive vibes, which, in and of itself, is reason enough to reduce their impact in an office setting. Swindling (@LindaSwindling) argues that complainers also can be a drain on resources.
In her survey of 1,014 people in various industries, 78 percent of respondents reported losing three to six hours per workweek because of “complainers, interruptions and/or energy drainers.” This translates into 150 to 300 lost hours a year per person--and that’s before you factor in “retention, retraining, productivity, and knowledge management, or the unquantifiable number of customers, clients, and employees [who] complainers drive away,” she writes.
In terms of wasted time, complainers are a double-edged sword. There’s the initial time wasted by the complaint, and then there’s the time that non-complainers must devote to (potentially) addressing the complainer. If the non-complainers decide to do nothing and wait it out, they may save some of their time--but then the complainer may keep going and more time gets wasted overall. If the non-complainers turn to others for help or to ask leadership to get involved, it costs the non-complainers even more work hours.
The bottom line: It is difficult to know which complainers (or individual complaints) should be ignored or waited out and which ones merit a managerial or group intervention. To help address this question, Swindling provides a checklist at the back of the book. We share it with you here in the hopes that it will help you negotiate work drama.
Decide to Negotiate
What do I want? What are my personal reasons? How will the environment be better?
Is it worth investing my time and effort? Does a potential reward outweigh my risk?
Find the Right Supporters
Who are the other stakeholders? How do others perceive the complainer? Why is a change in their best interests?
What do I want our leaders to do? What supporting documentation exists? What is realistic to expect from our organization?
Detours and Roadblocks
What could go wrong? What is my worst-case scenario? Can I live with it?
What is my alternative or plan B? Have I left myself an out? Should I adjust course or proceed as planned?