Chronic Complainers: 5 Ways Leaders Ignite Their Contributions

Chronic Complainers: Great Leaders Ignite Their Contribution

If some of your employees are chronic complainers, don’t focus on the complaining. You get what you focus on. If you want them to contribute, focus on contribution.

Great leaders do not snap at chronic complainers with the disdainful phrase stop whining. They ignite contribution without silencing people or squashing morale.

Chronic Complainers: Image is sketched figure saying I complain therefore I am.

Chronic Complainers: 5 Ways Leaders Ignite Their Contribution. Image by Dushan Wegner.

Image by Dushan Wegner via Flickr Creative Commons License.

5 Ways Great Leaders Ignite Contributions from Chronic Complainers

Leaders, as you feel your frustration with chronic complainers rising, ask yourself why they bother you? Do you feel stuck? Do you wonder how you’ll succeed while they spend time complaining?

Great leaders have these feelings too. They respond by …

  1. Replacing the shoulds with communication. Great leaders don’t get stuck in their own expectations. If you find yourself thinking, employees should stop complaining, get busy eliciting employees ideas. It takes you out of your own anger and self-focus and into the influence of leadership.

  2. Modeling the positive to override the negative. The best way to teach behavior is to show the actions. When chronic complainers dump doubts on everyone, ask them for one way to make the situation better. If they complain some more, politely interrupt them. “I heard what you don’t like. How can we fix it?” Consistently interrupt the complaint with a sincere request for ideas.

  3. Sharing power and responsibility. I’ve seen great leaders repeatedly turn chronic complainers into star performers. The leaders empower them to be accountable for results. This goes to the heart of someone’s self-image. A new reality evokes new behavior and eventually a modified self-image.

    Conversely, if you are a micro-manager or a highly controlling leader, you breed complaints. Employees complain when they feel they have no power.

  4. Applauding initiative. Great leaders honor people who contribute ideas and solutions. They give recognition to the person for the action. They highlight why initiative matters. This is not the same thing as rewarding success. If you want less complaining and more initiative, reward and appreciate initiative.

  5. Correcting themselves when they complain. Anybody can lapse into a complaint. In fact, “stop complaining” and “stop whining” are themselves complaints and whines. They express frustration without offering solutions. When you slip into this, stop yourself. Illustrate how you turn around your own behavior and you model it for everyone.

The Truth About Chronic Complainers

Chronic complainers are driven by embarrassment, fear, insecurity, and feelings of powerlessness. Interrupt this behavior through awareness, communication, and empowerment.

Ignite contributions and breed accountability. Show everyone what it is. Replace demeaning stop whining decrees with behavior that inspires contribution and green lights success.

From my professional experience to your success,
Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™

Related Posts:
Leadership: Breed Accountability Not Blame
Professional People Skills: 6 Ways to Respond to Constant Fault Finders

©2014-2019 Kate Nasser, CAS, Inc. Somerville, NJ. I appreciate your sharing the link to this post on your social streams. However, if you want to re-post or republish the content of this post, please email for permission and guidelines. Thank you for respecting intellectual capital.

Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™, delivers coaching, consulting, training, and keynotes on leading change, employee engagement, teamwork, and delivering the ultimate customer service. She turns interaction obstacles into interpersonal success. See this site for workshop outlines, keynote footage, and customer results.

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3 Responses to “Chronic Complainers: 5 Ways Leaders Ignite Their Contributions”

  1. Alli Polin says:

    You have some great suggestions here, but the most important lesson is the one you gave us in the very first paragraph – “you get what you focus on.” I’ve seen many leaders assume that they were powerless against whiners but we know that’s not the truth. Acknowledgement, engagement and asking people to be a part of the solution are powerful tools for every leader that wants to co-create success.

    Thanks, Kate!

    ~ Alli

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Hi Alli,
      Thank you Alli! There are so many articles online about “how to deal w/ complainers”. The latest one I read this morning suggests changing the subject away from work. Yet avoidance alone won’t change behavior.

      Let’s face it and focus on what we want — more initiative, innovation, solutions to issues, and success!

      I am grateful for your comment…


  2. Deb Payson says:

    I enjoyed this. As someone who has been a complainer I particularly like that you looked at the employers need to pay attention to why, someone is or multiple people are, complaining. A good leader learns from those below also.

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