how to handle chronic complainers on your staff

A reader writes:

I was hired to manage a team of fairly experienced salespeople. I originally was a manager of a different line and left for a better opportunity, and returned for a promotion as sales coordinator. I had known the team already and had a respect built with them.

But now that I am their boss, they are constantly whining, complaining, and irritated about the department. From stock issues to pay rate to the fairness of the department managers to bonus amounts, it never ends. I am exhausted of saying “think positive” and “stay focused.” I have tried firm talks, patient listening, enthusiastic support and encouragement, and partnering with other managers for support. I am slowly losing patience.

As a boss, I have given them every available resource to ensure success. I have rewarded success, put positive spin on failure, built them up to superiors. I guess my point is, I am trying to keep the emotion out of it and try to focus on the facts, but when I get home, I could cry, because I am totally beat up and exhausted from trying to find ways to improve sales and stop the negative whining, complaining, bitterness, and just keep going forward with the business. What approach am I missing?

You can read my answer to this question over at Inc. today, where I’m kicking off new column that will generally revisit letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago. In most cases, my answers will stay pretty much the same as the were the first time (but hopefully will be new to most of you since they’re from so long ago), although in some cases I might expand or revise them.

I’m hoping this will bring fresh life to posts that newer readers have never seen (from seven or eight years ago), as well as reach a whole new audience at Inc.

Please check out the first one here!

{ 100 comments… read them below }

    1. Mike C.*

      Such an amazing movie, holy cow. It’s like a bunch of really good actors got together and decided to take a script that they liked and run with it.

      It’s Glengarry Glen Ross if someone reading this isn’t familiar with the quote.

    2. Canuck*

      And I like the fact that that the Alec Baldwin character doesn’t actually exist in the book/play. He and his one scen was made up just for the movie. But it was brilliant. Brass balls brilliant.

      1. Lily in NYC*

        I was just coming here to laugh at that photo. I think I see Matt Lauer’s bother on the right. Dream job: posing for cheesy business-related stock photos.

        1. TOC*

          Yeah, I’ve kind of always wanted to be a stock-photo model. I’m so curious about how people end up in that very niche line of work.

          1. Chloe Silverado*

            I’m a stock photo! I used to want a career in entertainment, and as a teenager I had a talent agent. The agent hated me and thought I looked too ethnically ambiguous for acting (not sure why she took me on at all, but that’s another story), but ethnic ambiguity is great for stock photos! I got paid $50 to sit with 2 other teens at a table and act like we were having a study session for 2-3 hours. I was told to bring a few solid colored clothing items, and the photographer’s assistant selected which one I would wear for my big shoot! I felt incredibly awkward, but the photos we were taken weren’t particularly wacky so I’m not scarred by the experience. We basically just interacted with each other and various school-related props based on the photographer’s direction for 2 hours. In case anyone is wondering, that was one of my only 2 gigs – the other was hand modeling for a geometry textbook.

              1. AdAgencyChick*

                I’m not — the rates people pay for stock photos have plummeted given the explosion of online stock-photo houses. The Internet hasn’t killed the price of certain niche content that requires a high degree of specialization to produce, but it sure has turned some other types of content into commodities.

                Certain stock photo models command higher rates, though, especially if they’re willing to sign away extra rights. For example, many stock photos can’t be used in the context of “sensitive subjects” (you can’t just throw anybody’s photo into an ad for an HIV drug even if you buy the photo — at least not unless the subject has consented to be portrayed with that kind of subject matter — because some people don’t want the implication that they’re a patient). My company works with this kind of thing all the time — I have no idea how much we pay the models, but I’m pretty sure it’s more than 20 bucks an hour.

                1. Dynamic Beige*

                  And it depends on where you buy your content from. You may get different images on Getty than iStock, but you’re going to pay a whole lot more and that price will be based on where and how you will use it than the stuff on iStock (even though Getty owns them).

        2. Elizabeth West*

          I have an actor friend who did that! One time my sister sent me a funny e-card with a man dressed as a Birthday Fairy (he’s a bit overweight and bearded) leaping about in a tutu. I had seen his photos on facebook and recognized him. So much fun to call my sister and say, “Hey, remember So and So from high school? WELL GUESS WHAT!”

            1. Elizabeth West*

              Baaa haha! Oh that’s great!

              I use a site called FreeDigitalPhotos for my blog sometimes. It’s very difficult to find a subtle photo on it. Most of them are weird.

              1. virago*

                I use a stock photo site to illustrate editorials and op-eds for a newspaper website, and the selection can be … interesting. Like photos of staged “50 Shades of Grey”-type scenarios when I’m seeking images to accompany an opinion piece on how to address the prevalence of domestic violence.

    1. C Average*

      I have nothing to contribute here, but just need to note that I’ve enjoyed this whole conversation quite a lot and am now much better educated about stock photography than I was before.

  1. RN educator*

    When I was a manager, I faced the same thing. Once I was tired of it, I implemented a new policy. “If you oppose, you must propose.” My staff hated it at first but most came around. It gave me the option to briefly listen to the complaint but then let it go when they had no proposal. I told them just that as well, “I will not entertain your complaint any further until you have a proposal as to how to change it.” It gave me much more peace!

    1. Dan*

      I was going to say the same thing — “you don’t get to whine if you don’t have a proposed solution.” Only exception is if something is going to sink a project if it doesn’t get resolved.

      I work with a guy who: Never volunteers helpful information (that I know he has), only criticizes, tries to get out of work, etc. It’s getting pretty out of hand. It’s one of those things that any one thing is understandable, but taken together is just a headache. He likes to criticize proposed solutions to things because they are not silver bullets that solve all problems. Well fine, but they solve some and don’t create headaches elsewhere, so what’s the problem?

      1. maggie*

        Yup, when my staff would say ‘I/we/they have a problem’, I would respond with ‘there are no problems, only solutions: what is yours?’ I think they appreciated having a voice with their day to day operations, and it really allowed some of the more wallflower/”Eeyore” type folks to shine after a while. Then everybody started bringing bigger ideas to meetings, it was a really huge turning point for our team and their professional development. (I adopted a reeeeeally sour team due to a manager that only played them against each other; she was such a psycho.)

        My point? YES.

    2. Lore*

      Although nothing is more frustrating than taking that advice to heart and working out several easy-to-implement, constructive solutions for every problem, only to be shot down.

      1. Grand Canyon Jen*

        At my only longish-term for-profit job, this drove me nuts. I would literally lie awake nights thinking of ways to solve problems we all complained about – easy, inexpensive solutions – and every time I proposed something to my supervisor, she said she had to run it by management, and nothing ever happened. Even when 2 or 3 of us agreed something was a low-risk fix, and we were willing to put in the effort ourselves to implement it! I was never sure if my supervisor actually bothered to run it by management, but I think she did, and they were just so busy with higher-level stuff that it was never a priority. Which is why it makes sense to empower lower-level management to implement changes that would make a big impact on the morale and workload in their departments, even if it doesn’t directly affect the company’s bottom line.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Partnering complaints with solutions works up to a point.

          If the bosses never implement any of the employee ideas, the employees will catch on to that very fast. On the good side, I see nothing wrong with taking an employee’s idea and modifying it if it’s absolutely necessary. Then, explain the reason for the modification.

          However, the “only solutions” approach only works if it is reasonable for the employee to find/implement solutions with the knowledge and resources available at their level. Employees do not have the more global view that management does. It can be expected that they could have a problem that there is no answer in sight. In extreme situations, a boss that only wants solutions can shut down an entire crew.

          My friend had a problem with a machine that was used in her work. The boss handed her the technical manual for the machine and told her to repair it. One small problem, my friend did not know how to read wiring diagrams and do board level repairs, nor was she hired for that purpose. When she explained that (in a conversational tone), the boss blew up.
          You can only go so far with telling underlings that they must find solutions.

          I am in favor of the “think before you complain” approach. Is everyone else having the same problem? Have people being working to fix it? Is it even fixable? And I have no problem saying that complaining for the sake of complaining is not acceptable. Some people derive energy from having something to chew about. (For example a person is complaining they do not like the color of the sky. This is nothing anyone will even be able to fix, everyone else is coping, move on.)

          1. AcademiaNut*


            I’ve been in the position of bringing up a persistent problem (with lots of backup from other people experiencing the same problem) and having what seemed like very reasonable solutions from our perspective turn out to be impossible due to policy, budget or labour issues, or government regulations, that we were not privy to. It’s frustrating, because we’re being asked to provide solutions but not given enough information to do so successfully.

            And there are cases where the problem is basically someone doing a poor job at something, and the solution is “start doing it competently”. This is not generally something a low-level employee can say to their boss, however.

  2. HM in Atlanta*

    In addition to everything you said, I think it’s also important to help the team guide their thinking in a new direction. If the manager just shuts the conversations down now so abruptly, that could drive the complaining underground. The manager won’t be as exhausted, but the problem will still be an enemy agent in his camp. “We’ve talked about solutions/ways to mitigate/that isn’t changing so we just have to deal…what’s driving you to bring this up again?” That way when the manager inevitably has to shut down a complainer, “we’ve already talked about this, I understand you don’t like it, but we’re moving on” it won’t shut down the others who’ve moved on from complaining.

  3. The Other Dawn*

    A tactic a manager in my last job used, successfully, was to allow the person to vent for a set amount of time, maybe 5 minutes, and then that’s it. He shut them down. If they wanted to vent anymore about it, they had to propose a solution (as mentioned by another reader). Otherwise, no go. He followed a very dysfunctional manager, so it was rough for awhile; people were in his office complaining and resurrecting dead horses all the time. They eventually learned to stop complaining so much once he put his tactic into place. It made for a happier group.

  4. Just Saying...*

    I know you probably get a cut from the articles you post on other websites and I can really appreciate that you are getting paid to do something awesome and that I am a consumer of. But as a reader, I’m always bummed when I see a link to another website especially on a subject line that sounds really interesting. My feeling is that the posts get less comments too, but I could be wrong there. I’d actually rather donate to you to keep your posts here on this site than always have to link to the various other sites you post at. Just my thoughts.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      Sporadic donations from readers would not come close to the income from freelancing. It must cost a pretty penny to keep this site up.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yep, hosting fees and tech help for the site currently cost several thousand dollars a year, and that’s increasing as traffic increases.

        Plus, this is part of my career at this point: I write this stuff and I share it here and hope people will find it interesting (and that they’ll click through, since on some sites I’m paid per click!).

        I’m actually glad to talk about / explain my thinking behind things like this if anyone has questions about it.

        1. Arbynka*

          Are you still posting those sponsored articles – about cat food etc ? (I have bunch of stuff going on so lately my visits here have been sporadic. ) Are those working out well ?

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I do still do occasional sponsored posts! The cat food series is over, but I just did one for Igloo, which is a really cool intranet product. I try to make them pretty rare (usually only a few a year), because (a) I only do them for products I genuinely like, which limits the options, and (b) I don’t want to tax people’s patience with them :)

            1. Arbynka*

              That’s understandable. Personally, I would not mind even one sponsored article a day, really does not bother me. If I am interested, I read it, If not, I skip it. I have sponsored Kindle and once in a while their ads do recommend a good book :) And I think it’s cool you are doing them on things you personally like.

        2. hayling*

          Alison, I think it’s GREAT that you are asked (and paid) to write for other sites. You’ve worked hard to build a solid reputation and it’s a great example for people who want to be leaders in their own fields.

        3. NewishAnon*

          I would still donate to you if there was a way…or pay for a subscription. I love this site and am happy to support it. I recommend you to friends all the time. Truly solid advice that has made a marked difference in my approach to job hunting, general job performance, and how I view and deal with coworkers and managers. Honestly, it’s even helped in my personal life by helping me phrase things diplomatically when a difficult conversation has to happen or I’ve needed to negotiate certain aspects of relationships, among other things.

          Also, I would never have found this site if it weren’t for the many, many posts of yours I read on other sites while researching career tips. They definitely added legitimacy and made me feel like you were a source I could trust. Thanks for all your hard work and incredible career insight.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I really appreciate hearing that — thank you!

            Things you can do to support the site that really do make a difference to me:
            – Read! And recommend to others!
            – Click through on the links that I post to other sites, which shows them people are reading my stuff (and in some cases changes what I’m paid)
            – Buy my books / encourage others to

            I’m grateful for any/all of that!

            1. chrl268*

              I’m assuming you get paid for any click to that page? Like I generally click through from my rss feed (blogtrottr so through my gmail) – open both posts at once, the linked site and the comments. I tend to not find the content of the linked sites as interesting but I still enjoy the comments on this site about them – I prefer you letting us know than you just posting on other sites without mentioning it here.

              Thank you Alison for having such a quality site :-)

      1. Karowen*

        I actually love seeing it on other sites – I feel like it gives more legitimacy to the fact that I use this blog for work research.

          1. De Minimis*

            I’m not exactly bummed, but most of the external sites Alison links to are blocked by our filtering software, so I can’t see them at work. Already know why, anything with the word “Blog” in the URL or the title is blocked.

            But I can see Inc’s site just fine!

      2. Just Saying...*

        Like commenter Joey says below, A) I don’t like to have to click through multiple times but mostly B) I really look forward to reading comments on the site, and generally feel there is way less comments on posts that are on external sites. Besides, you have to keep referring back to the article if people do comment and say something like, “I can totally relate to #2, something I would add is…”

    2. Joey*

      This is exactly why I stopped reading Evil HR Lady- what’s the point of a site if almost everything requires you to go to another site.

      As long as its occassional and the comments stay here I don’t mind.

      1. JC*

        Yes, this is also why I stopped reading Evil HR Lady. I don’t like having to click through for every single post. I often read blogs on my phone on Feedly while I am commuting. That means I load Feedly before I get on the train and lose service, and can’t click through.

        One thing I really appreciate about Alison’s use of outside posts is that she has so much additional content that doesn’t require click-throughs. It makes it so that Alison can still get paid for those posts, but there’s still content on the site that I can read during my commute. And as a bonus to me and to Alison, it means that I’m much more likely to continue following the site and click on those outside posts at another time!

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Just a heads-up to people who love Evil HR Lady: Suzanne has returned to writing lots more posts that are just on her site (not linked to other sites). So if you haven’t been there in a while, you should check it out again!

  5. MAB*

    I had to face this as a new manager fresh out of university with an employee who whined about everything up to and including the weather, the fact I wasn’t her old boss, the new programs and if the sky was really blue (ok not the last one but you get the point). When I had been hired I was to condense paperwork and streamline the process. She hated every little change I made. SO I switched to asking the team how they did thing, she whined that no one listened to her even though most of her suggestions were good and implemented or at least reviewed. Then I stared implementing new programs and she would whine then ignore how they were to be done.

    I hated working with her as she made my work life quite miserable even though I really liked my job. Then one day I just ‘snapped’. I sat her down and told her the changes were going to stick around, that she didn’t have to like them but I wasn’t going to listen to her whine anymore. She was welcome to bring concerns to me but I needed well thought out reasons. I also told her that if she didn’t think she could deal with all the changes then I would recommend she find a new job.

    This employee ended up sticking around for another year to year and a half then left. She did stop whining to me but only after firmly telling her “We discussed XYZ and 123 yesterday. I am considering your suggestions but until then the task/schedule/personal in the other department will stay the same” a few times then turning back to my work. I did hear her complaining to my coworkers that I never listened and I had to explain what was going on to other departments.

    Once she left my team was much healthier. We rarely have whining and when we do we can talk about it constructively. I have not tolerated that level of whining since the problem employee left and when I do hire a whiner (in a temp to hire program) they are given a choice to stop complaining or move on. Most move on.

    1. cuppa*

      This is really good. I think a lot of whiners whine because they’ve been allowed to do so before. It’s also amazing how much these personalities can bring the rest of the team down.

  6. AnotherHRPro*

    What struck me was the OP’s comment, “I am exhausted of saying think positive and stay focused.” As a manager, you are more than a cheerleader. If your staff have issues with the way things are done, you have a responsibility to explain things. They don’t like their pay rate? You are responsible for explaining to them how their pay is determined and how it is competitive. They don’t like the way they have to schedule vacation? You are responsible for giving a rational for the current process. As a manager, we have a responsibility to represent the company to the organization. If they have a valid concern you also have the responsibility to raise those concerns along with recommendations for improvement. Managers don’t get to just say “think positive”.

    1. Kai*

      Yes, all of this. I am not one to whine to my manager very often, but if I did and all I got back was “stay positive,” that would not be helpful at all. Constructive, concrete feedback can go a long way in tempering the level of dissatisfaction.

    2. Jady*

      Completely agree. All these things the OP listed? “From stock issues to pay rate to the fairness of the department managers to bonus amounts”. These are all perfectly valid things to have issues with and you should be thankful for people bringing them to your attention and helping them with these problems.

      Bad pay, unfair bonuses, unfair managers? These things make employees unhappy. These things will cause turnover in the long run, and they are things you need to address.

      And given the use of “they” it sounds like it’s a fairly significant number of people coming to you. If it were one single person who just had a topic-of-the-day every single day, then sure that could be dismissed. However – many people all complaining about various things means there’s so serious unhappiness. Try to find the root of the problems and fix it. And if there is no fix, explain why, and if possible discuss or seek alternative solutions.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I totally agree that those are fair things to raise. But not over and over and over. At this point, it’s clear those things aren’t going to change; it’s not productive to keep raising them. They’ve voiced their concerns, they’ve been heard, and the OP should absolutely do what she can to address them if she thinks the concerns are valid (including raising them to someone above herself, as I said in the post). But it’s not reasonable to keep returning to the same complaint over and over at this point.

        1. Jady*

          I disagree.

          Things like pay and unfairness in the workplace are major problems for any employee, they impact numerous current and future employees, and they are things the employee faces every single day. Rolling over and just accepting the issues are unproductive and costly and hurt morale and the company.

          You just had a post recently about a touchy-feely-woman and you insisted that the poster should make an even bigger fuss about the problem, because it’s a big problem for the employee and one that can and should be resolved. I feel the same away about all of these listed things, and if I like my job I’d rather try to change them than just be bitter and resentful and looking for employment elsewhere. Which after a certain point of feeling ignored and dismissed, I would be doing.

          Now don’t get me wrong, I understand that managers frequently don’t have control. Just because a manager may want to give the pay raise doesn’t mean they have the authority or permission to do so for various reasons. But that needs to be communicated, and the employee needs to feel that the manager understands the issue and is fighting for their side. I understand that a manager may not have control over another manager’s unfair behavior, and maybe they are being dismissed by upper management, but that needs to be communicated and the employee needs to feel like the manager is fighting for their side. The best way to get high turnover is to create an us vs. them mentality.

          If the issues the OP had listed were say, ‘I don’t like the paint color’, or ‘Why don’t we have [brand] in the coffee room?’ or ‘These chairs aren’t pretty’, then I’m all for rolling your eyes and putting the foot down. But these employees are telling you not only are these issues a problem, they’re a big enough problem for them to constantly be on the employee’s mind, something they are facing every single day, and if you want a happy workforce then the employees need to at least see some attempted movement on improving the situation.

          1. fposte*

            I don’t think Alison’s saying that the complaints are baseless; she’s saying that bringing them up over and over again is more harmful than helpful. If an employee has told that the pay scale isn’t changing in the foreseeable future and she’s still complaining about the pay scale, the problem isn’t just the pay scale.

            1. Jady*

              I understand that but I still disagree with it. I think just dropping the issue is the more harmful of the two options.

              Just because the pay scale itself won’t change for example doesn’t mean there aren’t alternate solutions to the problem, such as more vacation time for example.

              A simple answer of “sorry, I talked to X and it just isn’t going to change so drop it” is just going to leave the employee bitter, angry, and looking for a new job. Instead, a response of “I’m sorry, I’ve talked to X and pay increases are not currently possible because [reasons]. I understand this is a frustrating situation for you, so what else could we do to improve your situation?”.

              The fact is the employee needs a satisfactory resolution when they have a legit and valid problem, and if they are still unhappy enough to be constantly bringing it up, then no satisfactory resolution has been reached, and you will eventually be losing these employees and building a bad morale in the workplace.

              I don’t accept the idea that *nothing* can ever change. Every situation can be improved, and if the employees feel that you are on their side and working with them to make things better, they will be satisfied.

              And sure, there might be situations where there is no alternative solution. I understand that, but I do not believe those are a significant majority.

              1. John*

                When a person raises concerns about their pay, the manager should listen and, if they feel the employee has valid concerns and is worth retaining, take it to HR or whomever to revisit all elements of the comp. But if the ultimate decision maker deems the current salary is market-competitive/at the limit of what the company is willing to pay for that level of performance in that role, there is nothing more to be gained.

                The manager has provided the employee with valuable information about the limits of his earning potential in that role at that company. The employee can then either decide to look for employment elsewhere or to stay. And the manager knows through that discussion that the employee may be a flight risk and has decided it is a risk worth taking/her hands are tied.

                Continuing to signal that you are unhappy accomplishes nothing other than making oneself miserable…and moving you to the top of the list if staff reductions need to be made.

              2. NewishAnon*

                I can sort of see your point but these are not actually issues that should be raised regularly by employees. If there is a real concern then you take it to your manager and have a discussion. Once that discussion has taken place then it needs to be closed for a while unless the employee has directly been asked to revisit it at a specific point. The exception being complaints about discrimination, harassment, violence, etc.

                In your example about pay scale I don’t think what you are saying is realistic. If someone isn’t happy with their pay its appropriate to raise the issue once and see if they can get a bump. If not then it’s not appropriate to keep asking for one. At that point the employee needs to wait for the next round of performance reviews and try negotiating at that point. Management isn’t just going to offer up extra vacation time every time someone balks at their pay. As an employee, once your manager says “no, this isn’t going to happen right now” it’s on you to then decide if it’s still a job you want. You don’t just keep hammering away at it hoping for a different result whrn nothing has changed since the last time you brought it up.

                Also, employees constantly complaining and raising the same issues over and over again, despite being told what they are asking isn’t possible, is likely to perpetuate a bitter, resentful and negative environment in the office. It’s also a managers job to make sure that doesn’t happen for the sake of all the employees.

                No one is saying *nothing* can ever change. They are saying that change doesn’t just happen because you ask for it and asking for it 100 times doesn’t change that. Good managers will make improvements when they can. And they aren’t likely to discuss the whole process with the employee anyway so the complainer may not even know what is going on behind the scenes or what processes are being discussed to make possible changes.

                Change at work can be a slow and difficult process and I think it’s really unrealistic to expect manager to constantly be working to find improvements for every complaint.

            2. Arbynka*

              BTW fposte sorry if I came along too harsh in other thread. I had to walk away. I volunteer with abused/ neglected children – I was also gonna be a Casa but right now cannot make the time commitment. So I might get too one-sided on that but I honestly see and understand your point of view. I always enjoy your post.

              1. Preston*

                If the team is a sales team and stock is an issue? Are these employees paid commission? I think those are major issues if so. I agree with Jady, if it is coming up a lot them the manager needs to do something, or communicate their hands are tied.

  7. Hooptie*

    I love that you’re over at Inc now! When Bnet was bought out by CBS, a few of the regulars there like Geoffrey James went over to Inc. I loved Bnet and still miss it. Everything I needed was in one place, including the Evil HR lady. Now if we could get Suzanne over to Inc too I may just make it a regular stop.

    I will never, ever forgive CBS for dismantling Bnet!

    1. LBK*

      Oh wow – I probably wouldn’t have recognized her if I didn’t know it was the same person. Although maybe that’s because I picture the bottom half of Alison’s face as a teacup…so…hard to judge.

  8. fposte*

    Should the “check out the first one here” link go to the original post? It currently links to the Inc article, same as the prior link.

  9. Mirabella*

    I have mixed feelings here. While I agree that the OP shouldn’t have to be everybody’s shoulder to cry on, and that it saps energy that badly needs to go elsewhere, I still have to wonder – is there a chance the complainers are right? That many people saying the same thing has to make me wonder if there isn’t a systemic problem in the organization. The things the OP listed are all fixable. Is the pay scale fair? (Not what the market is paying, but really cost of living fair.) Are the other department managers behaving respectfully and professionally? (Did the OP investigate these claims? You can’t take that as a given these days, or there would be no need for this blog!) Are the stock issues and bonus amounts actually adequate? It’s good to try and keep the emotions out of it, but try not to discount what is being said because the way it’s being said is unpleasant.

    1. Joey*

      So what if the complainers are right. Complaining anecdotally is lazy and unproductive. Bring some justification and some rationale to show how it’s going to benefit the business. But please don’t even bother if you already know I have no power to influence a change. Accept it or move on.

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        I, as a manager, would rather hear a complaint about something I have no power to change — ONCE, and not repetitively so that it becomes pointless griping — than not hear it at all. Then at least I have a better understanding of which employees might be flight risks, and I think ahead accordingly.

      2. Mirabella*

        You need to care if the complainers are right for one reason: it’s smart business. It does not benefit the business to have chronically dissatisfied employees who then turn into former employees. The dissatisfaction will spill over into all the customer interactions, to the point where they become former customers. Recruiting and training new employees takes valuable time away from doing the real company business. A revolving door of employees in and out of you workforce does not enhance the business’s reputation in any way. Fixing systemic problems in a way that leads to more employee retention and genuine employee enthusiasm does.

        1. Joey*

          Then the solution and justification for it should easy right.

          The point is don’t come to me to merely gripe. coming up with things to gripe about is the easy part. If it’s worth complaining about it should also be worth it to try and help fix it.

    2. Julia*

      I have worked in retail for many years and commissioned sales people, including beauty advisors, are beyond whiny. So this may be the same type of situation…the job attracts whiners and you probably can’t do a whole lot to change that.

  10. Amy*

    The higher you go, the more crap you hear. Being over other managers means solving problems, which means hearing about problems. That’s called authority. People go to people with authority with their complaints. That’s what management is for. People who felt their previous manager didn’t hear them out or try to make things better will naturally expect the new manager to be “better.” Sometimes the things they don’t like really aren’t within the authority of the new manager. In that case the answer is “I will forward your concerns to the people who are in power to do something about it, but meanwhile just assume nothing will be done and make the best of it.” If there *is* something the manager can do., the proper response is to take action. If the managers under the new leader really are playing favorites, call them together and tell them to cut it out. If it’s just one person, ask for specifics and then investigate.

    Asking people to put up and shut up is bad management. Well, no, it’s actually not management at all.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’m not sure if this is directed to me about the advice in the post, but nowhere am I suggesting telling people to “put up and shut up.” I’m telling her to hear them out with an open mind and take action where it’s warranted. But it’s not reasonable for people to complain about the same thing over and over when it’s been made clear that it’s not going to change.

  11. V. Meadowsweet*

    I hate to ask, but is there any other way to read the article? The Inc site is constantly refreshing – there’s a little blip in the page title every second or so – and for me it’s incredibly distracting and a bit nauseating. I’ve tried a couple of times but haven’t actually been able to read more than a sentence or so because of this.
    Or heck, if anyone knows a way to turn off that constant refreshing! I’m using Firefox, in case that makes a difference.

  12. positiva*

    In my office we call these people “negatinas” and they don’t end up lasting. I’ve seen several super-negative people fired at least in part because of their attitudes. One guy was in a customer-facing job and was great with them and they loved him…but although everyone liked him as a person, his constant complaining and negativity and obvious unhappiness with his job caused him to be let go.

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