By: Lizz Chambers, CHE, CHA
Code Red…Caller ID shows one of those dreaded numbers! Ima Whiner or Malicious Michael is calling AGAIN!
First it was about a manager not performing to standards, and then everyone was abusing their time off, and then supervisors were accused of playing favorites with scheduling. As the number flashes, you think to yourself: What is it this time? You reluctantly pick up the phone to a tirade that has become too irritatingly familiar and your stress level builds.
There are many times when complaints are valid. However, there are those people who are not happy unless they are complaining about something or someone. You know the type. These associates complain again and again about this manager and then another and this situation or that situation. Every hotel issue is a potential complaint. Then when you think you have found a solution…They complain about the solution. That is a pretty good indicator you have a chronic complainer on your hands or a problem-focused associate. One of the biggest stressors on management is that the squeaky wheel gets the grease and when dealing with problem-focused associates there is not enough grease in the world to rid your organization of that irritating noise.
How do you transform these problem-focused associates into solution-focused team members? This is not an easy transition, especially if your squeaky wheels are in the field and you are in the corporate office. Being the Corporate Director of HR and Training, I have dealt with my share.
Below are just a few techniques I have used successfully:
• Before shooting from the hip with a solution, or worse yet, passing the complaint on as fact, investigate the accusations thoroughly.
* Ask yourself what could be the associate’s motivation. Why is this associate complaining? Is it a personality conflict or is the associate speaking for the entire team? What is at stake?
* Have you seen a pattern that may give legitimacy to this complaint?
* If the evidence of the complaint is documented somewhere, ask for copies (i.e. schedules, past performance appraisals, etc)
* Speak with other associates closely related to the situation or to the source of the complaint and get their take on the issues.
• Ask for the complainer’s solution. Are they willing to take ownership by writing a proposed solution or action plan to help in the resolution? By insisting that they take ownership, you are teaching them to be solution-focused, not reinforcing their problem-focused behavior by buying into their perceptions or listening politely and then dismissing it entirely as fabrication.
• Model the behavior you expect. Yes, that may mean cutting down on your own complaining. Notice where your behavior contradicts what you expect from others. Do you ‘walk your talk’?
• Remain unbiased and open minded. If you appear controlling, power-hungry, or quick to jump to conclusions you are simply reinforcing this type of behavior and creating a problem-focused monster in the process.
• Once a proposed solution is submitted to you, be prompt on your follow-up otherwise it will hurt your credibility and you will risk losing the respect and trust of the individual.
• Reward those who are solution-focused. Create a ‘Can-Do’ award. Establish a set of criteria and then monthly or quarterly select an individual who represents a solution-focused attitude as your ‘Can-Do Associate of the Month’ (or Quarter).
Nobody likes a complainer. However, you must take every complaint seriously. You never know when a complaint could be a window into a significant issue. However, when you employ this method when responding to complaints, it empowers the associate to take responsibility and enables them to have some control over the outcome because they are now contributing to the solution not the problem. This method will also help you weed out the problem-focused (those who are not happy unless they are complaining about something) from the solution-focused (those who genuinely care about the organization).
Your goal is to earn the reputation as someone who is always solution-focused. Be the trendsetter for your company. When people throughout your organization decline to react with their ‘gut’ and choose instead to: Stop, Listen, Evaluate the message, Investigate the source prior to responding, get the Complainer Involved in the solution and Follow-up on the results, then the culture changes from one of hopelessness to one of expanding the possibilities.
Nevistas Publishing (http://s.tt/1uA7S)