“I just HATE when they complain like that,” one leader said exasperatedly.
Sure. I get it. People grouse, grip, grumble, moan, bellyache, carp, whine, and yammer all the time. Especially at work. And all that negativity can all-too-easily negate an otherwise decent mood you’re in.
So what to do? What CAN you do?
Definition of Terms
When something someone does or says continually frustrates you, one of the very first things I want you to do in your capacity as a leader is to recognize that they’re acting that way more for their own benefit, than yours. And while it often helps to acknowledge their angst – so they feel heard and seen – you really don’t want to encourage this sort of complaining from them without boundaries.
Well, what I recommend is that you create a distinction between the sort of ‘venting’ that people do – which often feels like endless complaining just for complaining’s sake – and ‘clearing’ – the process of quickly and efficiently sharing strong feelings so that they can be dissipated and released, allowing everyone to get back to more important things. And then redirect them, accordingly.
Distinctions in Action
So here’s how it’d work.
Someone ‘stops by’ and starts dumping all this negativity on you. Calmly, quietly, and respectfully, you say, “Wow! That sounds awful. Here, take another 15-20 seconds to ‘clear’ it out of your system so you can feel better and get back to work.”
Yes. Just. Like. That.
“Wow! That sounds awful. Here, take another 15-20 seconds to ‘clear’ it out of your system so you can feel better and get back to work.”
It’s Not as Harsh as You’d Think
Have them take another 15-20 SECONDS?!
Yes, because by and large, most people simply don’t know how (or when) to stop their beefing. So the time-limit, is actually very helpful. Too, the deadline:
(a) gives them an endpoint;
(b) helps them realize that, as their boss, you’re not there for them to routinely dump on (that is ‘vent’ to);
(c) gives them a way to release (that is ‘clear’) their pent up the frustrations they’re all bollixed up about; and
(d) allows you to assert your authority in a respectful, powerful, and efficient way.
Now, can you give them more than 15-20 seconds? Sure. But why would you want to?! Especially when you consider a corollary of something called Parkinson’s Law.
Parkinson’s Law postulates that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”.
So it reasons that if you shrink the time available for completion, the completion will still occur…just in less time!
After all, as with any delegated assignment, it’s typically far less about how much time someone COULD put into completing the assignment as much as how much time you can ALLOT to them for completion, before you need to use the results they were charged with providing back to you.
Key Traction Point
If you just told them to go away, they likely would…and then find someone else to vent to. But that would be terribly short-sighted on your part.
So by teaching your your staff the difference between ‘venting’ and ‘clearing’, you not only help them feel better, which is a very important skill, but it also will benefit YOU every time they come to ‘vent’ – as you cleanly redirect them to ‘clear’ instead – and will benefit THEM because they’ll now know what to do whenever someone comes to grousing to THEM!
Try it, yourself, and see. And if you’re so moved, I’d love if you share your experience in the comment section, below.