March 26, 2013

News & Opinion: Stop Complainers and Energy Drainers

By: 800-CEO-READ @ 8:51 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

I sat in a meeting once where an enthusiastic new employee shared ideas and input within a discussion on how to increase sales. While he talked, another sales rep rolled her eyes, and when he finished, she loudly declared, "None of that is going to work. I'm so tired of new people coming in here and acting like they have it all figured out. What we need is a real professional to run this department, get us good leads, and stop wasting our time with all these things that don't work." The new employee was stunned. Not only were his feelings hurt, but he was not even in a leadership position, so the attack seemed completely misdirected. He had just gotten his first taste of a major complainer and energy drainer. Have you ever worked with someone like this? Navigating these relationships can take a lot out of you, and to add to it, there's all the work to do that you've been hired for. Over time, each move you make becomes shadowed by the assumed words of the complainer: "That's stupid." Most people just end up quitting and moving on, which is unfortunate, for the company, the projects, and ourselves. We weren't the bad ones, why did we have to go? We don't, but it takes some work. Linda Swindling's new book Stop Complainers and Energy Drainers: How to Negotiate Work Drama to Get More Done is filled with a variety of examples that help us identify what toxic work behavior is, how it affects us, and how we can avoid the drama altogether. Swindling's stories about intentional complicators, whiners, prima donnas, and how they drain our energy can easily resonate with us, but she is smart enough to point out tips that help us identify if we ourselves might be the complainer and energy drainer in our group. In fact, we all might dip into that pool occasionally, and that, the author points out, is a natural effect of energy drain. But identifying that behavior early on, and remembering that we don't like it when we're on the other side, can help us get back on track. All in all this is a very "how-to" book that keeps its stories short and it's tips constant, which is just what you need when you feel you're drowning in a negative environment. I'll close with a positive comment from Swindling about addressing complainers:
Consider your Complainers at work. They may be providing helpful information, but just not presenting it well. Review the feedback they give and look for nuggets of truth. In some cases, your Complainers may be an early warning system and a more vocal representation of your own workforce. Step back and think about their complaints in a broader context.
Now then, can't we all just get along?