Every workplace seems to have that one employee who is nothing but a perpetual fountain of gripes. It’s tempting to ignore the constant complainer as a crank who can never be satisfied.
But sooner or later, the complaints will lead to a confrontation that can seriously undermine a manager’s authority. Clearly this subordinate is challenging not only management’s patience, but also its authority. He or she must be disciplined.
Do some of your employees require more “managing” than others? Don’t tolerate their challenging behavior – fix it.
Here are some helpful tips to follow when disciplining a chronic complainer:
1. You must be able to show that the employee’s behavior violates company policy. No one would question a manager’s right to discipline an employee who refuses to follow orders. But coming down hard on an employee who doesn’t like the new color scheme in the cafeteria would be out of line.
2. Don’t dismiss a complaint as being too trivial. Investigate it fully and get back to the employee with an answer. Some constant complainers are cured when they see how ridiculous their complaints look under formal scrutiny.
3. Never try to justify a major disciplinary action by building a case based on a lot of minor complaints. Putting employees under special scrutiny or constructing a file filled with reprimands or unsatisfactory appraisals will make matters worse. Each complaint should be judged on its own, immediately after it is filed.
4. Never let a constant complainer deter you from appropriate discipline. Some of them might argue that your discipline is in retaliation for one or more of their complaints. You have a right to discipline any employee whose behavior or performance has been unsatisfactory, whether or not he or she has filed a complaint.
5. Sometimes the chronic complainer is only speaking for him- or herself. But there are times when he or she might be reflecting the feelings of a whole department. That’s why it’s never a good idea to totally ignore the complaints. Check with colleagues and co-workers to see if there’s any validity to the claims.
6. Be a sounding board. Most managers run and hide when they see a problem employee approaching. Try the opposite tack and attack their complaints with a quick investigation. You may find more than you bargained for. Often, people who act in a negative way are really looking for an outlet, someone who will listen and reassure them. Give them the attention they’re seeking and you may lessen the severity of the problem.
Most constant complainers gripe so much because they don’t feel their underlying complaints are being addressed properly. Encourage employees to share their legitimate concerns with you as soon as they arise.