It’s Time to Work on Words and Attitudes

A middle age man yelling and pointing during an argurment. Anger Managment???
A middle age man yelling and pointing during an argurment. Anger Managment???

While we’re still dealing with limited business and strange social distancing restrictions, I’m hoping we can pass on some information that may help you be a better business owner and manager.  It’s time to work on those people who bring others down in your crew because of their words and attitudes.

In my recent book “Profit and Loss:  The High Cost of Complaining (and other negative behaviors),” I chose the term “complaining” to head up a large group of verbal negative behavior methods simply because most of what I’m going to address deals with complaining in some form or another.  There are several other verbal methods with which a person can exude a negative attitude, and we can draw a larger picture with the terms bitching, whining, and complaining.

Before we press into actual scenarios and remedies, let’s establish what complaining is, at least in the categories that I’m addressing.

Complaining is negative speech from one person to another, or it can take written or electronic form.  There are many facets to the initial complaining action, and even more divisions and tangents after the words are expressed.  In the scenarios I draw out, you’ll notice quite a few tangents that this communication can take, each with a significant impact on the individuals involved.

I’ll be referring to these “complaining qualifiers” throughout this publication, and will ask you to look back at these statements as we explore more detailed developments.

Complaining qualifiers – items that the complainer assumes when they began speaking negatively.  They are:

  1. The complainer assumes that the person or group listening to their complaints actually wants to hear their statements.

    This assumption usually transcends professionalism, character, and personal desire.  The complainer chooses to make an unprofessional move and force his/her audience into listening.

  2. The complainer assumes that their issue or issues is/are more important than anything else the audience has going on at the time.
  3. The complainer assumes that there is nothing more important to do at the time, be it work or personal tasks, that outweigh the significance of voicing the complaint.

Throughout this article, I’ll be drawing on and explaining scenarios I’ve experienced, and then explain the numerous tangents developed after the initial complaint or attitude.  These include customer perception, fellow employee perception, business owner observations, and financial impact.

Many of my scenarios involve retail experiences.  I’ve traveled for work for many years, and deal with fast food employees, those working in service stations, trucks stops, and “sit-down” restaurants.  By no means are these scenarios limited to these customer service positions.  The same rules apply to warehouse workers, folks in an auto parts store, an insurance agency, or lawfirm.

Let’s go over the general properties of the complainer themselves.  Please understand that these are generalizations, and you as a business owner, manager, or employee are encouraged to survey and determine for yourself exactly what you’re dealing with in the people you contact.

Emotionally weak – despite at times being loud and demanding of you to hear their complaints, most people who complain regularly, or as a matter of constant conversation (more later), are very emotionally weak.  This weakness can be attributed to several factors:  the person has never had serious responsibility, thus never “grew up”; the person has never been a supervisor and had to deal with the drama and repercussions caused by someone like themselves; the person simply stopped maturing, either at the point of a drastic incident or event, or just when they decided to quit taking responsibility for their actions, or were no longer challenged for accountability.

Most complainers are very insecure in their positions, insecure in their manhood or womanhood, and their only successful way of being assertive or proactive is to be negative and complain or whine.

It is often that you have grown adults who whine, complain, and throw temper tantrums, always walking around with a chip on their shoulder – I call them “Forty-year-old adolescents.”

Pettiness – being petty takes many forms.  People who you may not expect to act this way may surprise you by becoming exceptionally trivial and picky about minor details – a facet of being petty.  Ignorance on a particular subject or in general, arrogance, and a lack of maturity can all lead to the end result of petty behavior.

The competitor – many of us have seen this guy or girl.  One person whines that they had to work two hours of overtime last week, and this person jumps in, claiming that they had to work four hours.

The one-upper – this person is like the competitor, although while the competitor may be slightly reasonable, the one-upper has to go to outlandish lengths to make sure another person can’t get close to competing with him.  This usually causes huge amounts of tension and anguish in the work environment.

The game of one-upmanship is a conscious struggle for psychological superiority often employing passive – aggressive behavior to specifically demoralize or dis-empower the thinking subject making the aggressor look more knowledgeable, or having experienced more.

The know-it-all – while this person may not be particularly good at his job, or punctual, or professional, you’d never know it according to them.  They have to be in charge at every occasion making sure to boast that they know more about a job or task than others present.  This is guided by strong insecurities and can be addressed fairly easily.

The know-it-all is usually a person who constantly presents their input as though they were professionally trained, schooled, or have firsthand insight into subjects when it is evident this is not the case. Opinions, suggestions, thoughts, and commentary from everyone else is quickly shot down as incorrect, nonsensical, and disruptive.

The problem with the know-it-all is two-fold:  if allowed to run things like they want, they’ll anger and alienate your entire crew and disrespect your position usually indicating that they don’t need supervision.  If corrected, they’ll throw a temper tantrum and cause work interruptions.

Not my job – this person studied their job description with a magnifying glass and balks at any mention of helping someone with a joint task or team project, because it’s not their job or in their job description.  This type of person has little pride or honor, and has no problem watching a pregnant lady take out a heavy garbage can when they could have easily pitched in and helped out of courtesy.  Ironically, this person is also the one to scream the loudest when they don’t get a huge raise or a promotion, since they do “their job” so well.  The problem is that is all they’ll do is what is on an outline of duties.

The interrupter – the impact seen because of this person seems obvious, but it isn’t.  It is good to encourage “visiting” sessions during slow times at work, as many people pick up valuable training and information in a casual environment, and you can utilize your experienced people in this capacity.  The interrupter always jumps the gun and has to be the center of attention, and the most important person on hand – the smartest person in the room, as it were.

They’ll interrupt someone’s story or account with “That’s nothing, check out what happened to me.”  In other words, what the first person just said is worthless, means nothing, but what I’m going to tell you now is worth listening to.  Even the most courteous and patient employee will stop talking and participating after a couple of these interruptions.

The interrupter loves to hear themselves talk.  No one’s account of an incident is as good or accurate as theirs.  They’ll step on someone just to get their version in so the crowd can hear it.

The interrupter usually complains the loudest, and because they step on others’ words, their complaints ring the clearest.

The whiner – this one appears harmless, but can cause a manager or supervisor the most stress.  A new schedule will be posted, or a change in work rules, and people will talk about it in a group.  This person usually stays behind after a meeting to go directly to the manager or supervisor for their version of why this or that won’t work.

They usually have an actual whine to their voice, and wear their feelings on their sleeves.  If you dismiss them, don’t hear them out fully, or don’t address their concern(s), they’ll take it very personally…producing pouting, sullenness, anger, tantrums, or worse.  We should agree that none of these emotions being displayed in a workplace is a mature response and has any right being shown in a professional environment.