Professional People Skills: 6 Ways to Respond to Chronic Fault Finders

Professional People Skills: Find Solutions, Not Fault

Professional People Skills: Image is a poem about listing positives.

Professional People Skills: How to Deal w/ Fault Finders Image by:ANDI

Image by ANDI via Flickr Creative Commons License.

Finding fault stops progress; finding solutions ignites success. I posted that on Twitter and many re-tweeted it. Some sent replies and this one caught my eye:

How  do  you deal with chronic fault finders?

A great question.

Dealing with chronic fault finders can demoralize a team. In Dr. Robert Sutton’s book Good Boss, Bad Boss he notes: “Teams with downers produce 40-60% less than teams without them.”

That rang true to me. When I am around chronic fault finders, I feel like I am pushing a truck up a hill without a motor.

Conversely, when I am around people who focus on finding solutions, their professional people skills, energy, and ideas are uplifting. It’s a heavenly duo of optimism and realism.

Professional People Skills: Dealing w/ Chronic Fault Finders

So what professional people skills approach would you use to deal with chronic fault finders?

  1. Are they aware that they come across as negative? You might think this is a ridiculous question yet many people never think about how they appear to others. Ask them for their ideas and solutions. If someone is going to change their behavior, first they must see their behavior for what it is to others.

  2. Use the power of the written “what if”. Ask them: “What if we each write down some possible solutions and then share them?” By going to the written form, you create a spotlight for the positive. The chronic fault finders will see their behavior more clearly if they have suddenly have nothing to share.

  3. Ask for More Information

  4. If the fault finding continues, ask them “What does fault finding mean to you or do for you?” It asks without accusing. If they are finding fault with ideas without offering new ones, they are resisting change. If they are finding fault with people, it generally shows their fear or insecurity. In either case, communication about finding fault can get them to move past it.

  5. Professional People Skills: Look Behind the Behavior

  6. Spot their personality type. Driver types are so focused on the end result they assume that others are too. They skip telling you the positive aspects of your idea to reach success more quickly. If you are not a driver personality type, you may see this as negativity and finding fault. Let the driver personality type know that looking at the positives and negatives helps you reach the end result.

  7. Take what is valuable. Set limits on the rest. If they are highlighting the risks or flaws in an idea, use their comments to make things better. If they are attacking you personally, set limits appropriately. “I treat people with respect. I ask the same in return.” This is a professional people skills response to inappropriate behavior.

  8. Leave it behind. There are times in your personal and work life where you may choose to walk (not run) away from a chronic fault finder. It is a viable choice when done with prior thought and awareness. Being around positive people can change your life.

A Positive Image to Share w/ Them

Picture a team of inventors. They look at each failed attempt as a positive step toward creating a great result. They don’t point fingers at who suggested it and spend time blaming. Moreover, they are alive with energy and ideas to reach a solution.

Chronic fault finding comes from fear, selfishness, and low emotional intelligence. When you face that negativity, your self-confidence, optimism, and emotional intelligence rise above it and enable a professional people skills response.

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

Related Posts:
5 Ways to Ignite Contributions of Chronic Complainers
Leaders, Make It Easier to Innovate Than to Complain!

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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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22 Responses to “Professional People Skills: 6 Ways to Respond to Chronic Fault Finders”

  1. I LOVE this post, Kate! As a “glass-half full” change-agent, I encounter this issue quite often. I have found that many who find fault with a plan simply distrust the motives of those doing the proposing.

    To transform fault-finders into a solution-oriented partners, I must prove that I truly do have THEIR best interests in mind. When I take great care to detail how a plan benefits the listeners, resistance is gradually replaced by resolve.

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Nice to see your comment on this post Tristan. You do come across — even in your social media presence — as a creative positive change agent. We share that trait.
      I do agree with you about showing benefits to spur change. I have encountered some who will resist even that. I call them “true resistors” and mostly they are acting behind the scenes to stop the change. Perhaps I see more of this than others do because a consultant is often called when things get sticky and slow.

      In any case, when positive can-do attitudes replace pervasive negativity — life changes!


  2. Jane Perdue says:

    Kate – another thought-provoking topic!
    One of my life lessons has been that no one can change another. As leaders we can help the chronic nay-sayers understand the (negative) workplace and personal career impacts of their passion for perpetual faulting finding (particularly when there’s no value add from what they do). They won’t change unless, or until, they reach some personal pain point that motivates them to modify their behavior.
    On the flip side, as leaders, we must be aware of our own behaviors — are we categorizing someone as being a fault-finder simply because they chronicly disagree with our position?


    • Kate Nasser says:

      Hi Jane,
      Excellent insight. I certainly was not referring to someone who is offering genuine concerns and differing ideas. Diverse opinions DO help work toward solutions.
      Conversely, chronic fault finders “find the fault” yet do not offer alternatives. They also hold to their vision with a rigid selfishness that can hurt the larger organization and purpose. They believe that they do not need to support any decision for the whole team that they individually do not like. They continue to complain about it as change moves forward. They rarely step outside of their own perspective and see the world from other angles.

      Sometimes change has to happen more quickly …

      • JOJO says:

        Hi Kate, my boss is always finding issue with me. I have been working for this company since the beginning. He is never pleased with anything i do. I often get frustrated while working for the company because I don’t see a future here for me. I dedicated a lot of time and energy into my job. I even want to make this line of work a career. One time I had to skip class just to put in an extra hour or two. I work beyond the call of duty.
        I am contemplating on quitting but I’m a University student


        • Kate Nasser says:

          Hi Jojo,
          Your situation is something many have had and felt. It is very frustrating yet not hopeless. If you are ready to leave and find another job in the same field, that is one very good option. A person’s morale is critical to success. On the other hand you have some misgivings about leaving. Part of your frustration is that you have a moving ill defined target. You don’t know what is expected of you. So besides leaving, you have one more option. Turn the ill defined moving target into a clearly defined picture of what is expected of you. Ask your boss for that picture. Do it without showing your anger/frustration. Simply ask A) what you are doing well and B) where should your performance improve. If your boss has nothing good to say about your performance, it doesn’t mean there is nothing good about it. In that case consider finding a new job. You won’t be able to please that boss no matter what you do. If however the boss gives you the positives and the areas for improvement, you will now have a defined vs. a moving target.

          Best wishes and good luck!

  3. GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL! Totally scored, AGAIN, with this post! I am fortunate that I don’t have to deal with this in the workplace… as I am ‘the decider’, however, I DO have these challenges from ‘naysayers’ and pessimists on a personal basis.

    Your brilliant counsel has ALREADY come in handy! Kudos on all the marvelous things you bring to light!

    As I think about it, one of my Team Leaders is perpetually, clinically negative. An “I can do this better than ANYONE and I’m baffled that you don’t AGREEEE with MY approach… but oh well, it’s your funeral.”-type.

    My inclination as a leader is to thank them for their passion and concern & then gently redirect them by reminding them that “there are many methods of achieving a result.” On occasion that doesn’t work and I am forced to whip out the old “because I said so. Thanks.” or “because that is what I am asking of you.”

    Thanks for the ammo with which to achieve a positive resullt and, gently but firmly, a change in their M.O.

    Thanks and best regards my Guru,

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Many many thanks for this contribution on wonderful TGIF! I am glad that my posts have provided insight and help. I learn from the comments and am thrilled that you contributed. I invite you to comment on any post of interest on this Smart SenseAbilities blog and wish you a fantastic weekend.

  4. Simona says:

    Hello Kate,

    Indeed a very good subject :). The question sounds very familiar.

    -well , COMMUNICATION is the KEY for this issue
    – first we must escape of the fears of hearing faults, and focus on the solutions
    -some of us are more negative people, but with their negative approach to situations , they show their worries.
    -we (because I am positive by nature) must understand them!
    – the people with positive approach can help the negative, and a MIX between two sides (negative -critic and positive-idealistic) is better-ONLY IF and ONLY WHEN EXISTS FLEXIBILITY in thinking and in attitude for both parts.

    This is what I believe and also experienced.

    all the Best dear Kate!

  5. Two key points emerged for me, based on your suggestions, the comments here and my own experience:
    1. Encourage Solutions: Regardless of the source of the negative comments, nay-sayers (or “whiners” as I call them), need to recognize we all have a responsibility, as part of our job, to find solutions, not just problems.
    2. Set the Example: Be the leader (regardless of title) in the group and set the example, clearly. When you present a challenge, follow it by calling out, “and, so as not to only present the negative side, here is how I propose we solve it….”

    For me, I’ve even asked my team to call me out whenever I am being too negative. It is important to maintain a positive environment. I wrote on a very similar topic, for those that are interested in more examples, at “Whiner or Winner“.

    An excellent post, Kate. Thank you for sharing.

    • Kate Nasser says:

      I very much like the action spin you emphasize on this post — “Encourage” solutions. Leaders can do a great deal to influence behavior if they see their role as “influencer”. I love the fact that you actually give your team permission to “check” you on negativity. Bravo and thanks for contributing to this post.

      Here’s to a positive action-oriented day!

  6. Susan Mazza says:

    Great points Kate. I also find that people who are “wired” to be negative or naturally see the flaws in things can dismiss attempts to deal with the way they occur believing that those in “power” prefer not to deal with reality or they just don’t want to “hear the truth”.

    Skepticism and criticism are often essential to coming up with great solutions. There is a big difference between being negative/having a negative attitude and having something negative to say.

    When someone can get the difference their ability to find the flaws and their comfort with expressing a dissenting opinion can be an asset. When they don’t they are destined to be eternally frustrated by not being listened to or heard even when what they have to say is both useful and valid.

  7. Kemetia says:

    Great article, Kate.

    If someone is persistently negative on my team, I wait til we are alone and ask them– “Is there a reason why you are so angry? Is there something I can do to help you?” Of course, I only take this approach with peers- not supervisors 🙂

    Generally the question provokes a decent dialogue and allows me to help my colleague focus on solutions instead of kvetching about issues that are either not relevant or not in our control.

    It’s been a fairly successful approach.

  8. Gaynor says:

    A timely post for a solution I need to find [as opposed to a problem I have! :)]. I do like the idea of writing down solutions and will give it a try. Thanks for the idea.

  9. Denisse says:

    Thank you for this. 🙂 It helped me on my current problem.

  10. […] Are they people that are always quick to point out the things that you didn’t do right? Do you have professional fault finders as best […]

  11. Change agent 2 says:

    The antidote to finding fault is, as mentioned above, offering possible solutions.
    It is NOT
    1) license or permission to disparage (or worse alienate, bully, terminate) team members who are identifying real problems, potential negative consequences and/or offering constructive feedback
    2) disneyfing everything, or creating disney group think such that constructive thought is shut down
    3) equal to whining, false equivalency
    4) equal to complaining, false equivalency
    5) license or permission to only see or promote the positives

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Finding fault goes nowhere. It is purely an expression of the fault finder’s inner needs to put others down. Respectful dialogue, keen analysis, and positive solutions are the true influencers!

  12. Dixie Ibarra says:

    To the webmaster, Your posts are always well presented.

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