Leaders, 6 Positive Replies to Transform Complaints into Action

Many leaders and managers get annoyed with employees’ complaints. Leaders tell me they expect employees to contribute their views and actions to make things better — not complain about what is.

In frustration, some unsuccessfully tell employees to stop whining. Some leaders even hang a no whining sign!

This does not get employees to contribute a positive can-do attitude, their innovative solutions, and full talents and commitment.

What will engage employees to move from complaints to action?

Leaders, 6 Positive Replies to Turn Employees Complaints to Actions

Image by: saschaaa via Creative Commons License.

6 positive replies to transform employee complaints into action:

  1. I hear your frustration. I am ready now to hear your ideas/solutions. Validate the feeling. If you don’t, it will continue to crave attention. Once you do, transform the power of the emotion into ideas. You are coaching your employees at this moment so don’t let them slip back into speaking only the frustration. If they can’t break out of it at that point, let them know you will be happy to discuss solutions when they are ready. Then move on with your day!
  2. You have talents for solving this. Would you like to brainstorm ideas? This direct approach shows confidence and belief in them and offers them a great opportunity. The reply shows the essence of any organization — a belief in people to contribute to the end result. You as leader/manager guide all on this mission to stay focused on the road to success.
  3. Power to move ahead comes from negative and positive poles. You’ve highlighted the negative very well. What’s the positive suggestion to overcoming this problem? Leaders and managers who are either driven for results or hate negativity, often overlook the value of the negative jolt. You can remind yourself and teach your employees this negative/positive balance. It reshapes outlooks and practice.
  4. Your feelings and view of the problem are important. Your ideas for solving it — critical. What do you propose?

    If the next couple of statements from them are still complaints: We move forward with solutions. Here are three statements to get you started:

    • We could ________________________________________________.
    • I can contribute ___________________________________________.
    • I am willing to _____________________________________________.

    Take time to think about it and then let’s get started!

  5. Let’s take your understandable emotion on this issue and turn it into a power source for solving it. I’d love to hear your ideas. Many employees feel like followers not contributors. Daily reminders that they have power to lead from within their talents help shape the organization and its success.
  6. Optimism and skepticism are healthy; endless pessimism is poison to a team. With chronic complainers who offer no solutions or actions, let them know that their endless pessimism can stop success much the same way that blinded optimism can put everyone at risk. As the leader, I will forge ahead on this balanced mission. I want your talent with us. Please bring your balance to this team’s challenges.

These positive replies will work if you are engaging employees on a daily basis for their ideas and solutions. If you are a directive leader and use these replies when employees complain, they will have little effect.

Complaints without suggestions are an indicator that the employees feel powerless. If you lead daily through employee engagement, you connect with them emotionally by tapping their ideas. This in turn validates their worth and helps tremendously when you all must endure things that cannot change.

Employee engagement generates their sense of power and desire to contribute solutions; it doesn’t give away your power. It actually generates a powerful success for the organization you lead. The exact result you seek!

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

Related posts:
Leaders, Coach and Perform Like a Ferrari

Leaders, Replace These 5 Behaviors to Attract Top Performance & Talent

©2012 Kate Nasser, CAS, Inc. Somerville, NJ. If you want to re-post or republish the content of this post, please email info@katenasser.com. Thank you for respecting intellectual capital.

Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™, delivers consulting, training, DVDs, and keynotes on leadership, employee engagement, teamwork, and customer experience. She turns interaction obstacles into business success especially in tough times of change. See this site for workshops outlines, action footage, and customer results.

4 Responses to “Leaders, 6 Positive Replies to Transform Complaints into Action”

  1. Julie Byrd says:

    For me, your timing couldn’t be better with this post! These are some great tips on overcoming complaints voiced by our sales team recently. Thank you for such incredible advice!

  2. Khalid says:


    But how about if you make a decision that you know people got upset with and then when you follow your suggestions above, they starts to interfere with your way of management!

    What of every time you make a decision, employees will expect same type of intervention on decisions?

    By the end of the day, you can’t satisfy all complains!


  3. I agree with what you are saying Kate. Some years ago, I worked with a chronic complainer, who always came up with reasons why any plan or suggestion wouldn’t work for our team. Our manager ignored him but I gradually realised that he was an excellent ‘devil’s advocate’. His negative approach allowed him to spot potentially serious problems that the rest of us missed, due to our enthusiasm and rush to get going. I suspect that if he had been given a chance, his natural creativity would have also been valuable in providing some solutions.

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