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No Whining!

I recently got my hands on a small button. It has a red circle around the circumference of the button and a red slash running diagonally through the center - you know the one - the international symbol telling you not to do something. And in the center of the button is the word "Whining."

I love this button. In one funny image it captures the bottom line of any coaching relationship - when you come onto our coaching calls, there is no whining allowed. Well, OK I may let you whine for a minute or so, but then the fun is over and we are getting on to the vital business of figuring out what you are going to do about whatever it is you are whining about.

Dealing with whining at work, however, may be harder than doing so on a coaching call. In fact, an organization that tolerates whining can evolve (or perhaps better described as devolve) into a miserable, corrosive work environment. Truly, there is information in dissent and disagreement as well as in complaints. As a manager you will have to deal with all three. When your people come to you with complaints thank them for communicating their concern to you. The last thing you want to do is cut off access to this information.

At the same time, however, don't tolerate whining. If you do you have no one to blame but yourself. Rather than tolerate the whining, establish a simple, consistently applied, rule: I welcome all complaints and expect each complaint to be accompanied by at least one proposed solution. When you stop tolerating whining and promoting creative problem solving you get some interesting results:

  1. It makes people stop and think about why things are the way they are, and what the costs are to change them. Sure, there are plenty of things that aren't perfect at work, but is it really worth the time and effort to fix some of them? Is the marginal gain worth the marginal cost? This sort of analysis helps people think through setting priorities and deciding what is really important to be working on.

  2. As the boss it will help you focus on the really important things. You want to hear the concerns of your staff. But you also want them to engage their brains before coming to you. As they stop whining and start thinking, what does reach you will almost certainly have some merit.

  3. And then some good ideas will start flowing! Let's face it: your people know their jobs better than you do, so encourage them to help you solve the problems. As the boss you cannot do it alland you have some great people working for you.

  4. When employees see their ideas acted upon, you honor them in a way nothing else can. They have now taken responsibility for the job they are in and the organization they are a part of, and as an "owner" are helping to make it better. How cool is that!

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Maxwell & Associates
1012 Embassy Row Way • Seabrook Island, SC 29455-6005 • Voice 843-768-2227 • Fax 843-768-2170 •

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