Working with a Whiner? Try These Tips

Whiny workers may seem like a nuisance, but their influence goes beyond that.

A Gallup poll of more than 30,000 workers found that about 18 percent are “actively disengaged,” negative and likely to complain, the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) reports. When work groups have high negativity, productivity tends to decline, quality to suffer, and absenteeism to increase, Gallup research has shown.

Author and speaker Will Bowen, founder of the group A Complaint Free World, offers a couple suggestions for those who work with complainers. When a co-worker gripes about the boss, respond with this remark: “It sounds like you and he have something to talk about.” Or ask this question: “What’s going well for you?”

The article lists other tips: Ask the whiner what he or she intends to do about the problem. Retreat by moving your desk or workstation. Or, retreat mentally by imagining yourself in a peaceful setting.

One complainer and her boss managed to work out a constructive solution. Joan Curto, a national accounts manager for a pharmaceutical company, used to complain about the heavy travel needed for her job, the story says. Her then-boss, Trevor Blake, asked her what she planned to do about it. “Come to me with a solution,” he said.

Curto told the Wall Street Journal she was irritated at first. Then she developed a plan: She would travel to meet customers with the highest sales potential. A pharmacist could be hired to contact the others. Sales increased and Curto was able to spend more time at home.

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