How to manage a constantly complaining employee

    December 5, 2019

    Do you have an employee who’s always complaining — whether that’s about a project, the workload, or another team member? 

    If so, it’s important to understand that constantly complaining employees are bad for team morale. In fact, they can even undermine the productivity and effectiveness of your team. So how can you address this behavior?

    Assess whether or not there’s a real need

    It’s important to assess whether or not the complaining stems from a real need, as Gwen Moran recommends in her article “6 Ways to Deal With Chronic Complainers” for Fast Company. For example, if the person complains about a coworker being loud, evaluate whether or not that’s true, and consider placing the two employees at opposite ends of the office from each other.

    Understand the employee’s communication style

    Some people simply communicate in a negative way. If this is the case, you need to realize that it doesn’t necessarily mean the employee is unhappy or you have to change something to appease him or her.

    Offer an alternative perspective

    Sometimes, employees only see situations from their own point of view. For example, let’s say you need to move up a deadline and a team member complains about having to work late. In this type of situation, it can be helpful to explain how completing the project sooner will benefit the company, the team, and the employee in the long run.

    Ask for a solution

    A complaining employee may definite thoughts about how an issue can be remedied. Ask him or her about possible solutions, and assess whether or not they’re realistic.

    Address the behavior

    If the complaining is affecting others, it can be advisable to directly address the employee’s behavior. In a private conversation, communicate that you’ll listen to each complaint once and try to address it — and after that, you don’t want to hear any more on the topic. 

    Take action

    Ultimately, if none of these measures yield any results, then you might simply be dealing with someone who’s not a good fit for your team. If that’s the case, then it might be best to consider replacing him or her so the rest of your team isn’t constantly affected by the negativity, as Alison Green advises in her Inc. article “How to Handle Chronic Complainers on Your Staff.

    While it’s always unpleasant to hear an employee is unhappy, it’s also important to ensure the rest of your team has a positive work environment. Depending on your employee’s reason for complaining, you might be able to resolve his or her issues — but if not, it’s time to take action to prevent the complaining from impacting your other employees. 



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