Employees who complain too much: Get ’em back on track

No matter what manager did, employee was never happy

Motivating a staff is a daily challenge – particularly when you’re running a lean operation.

And one whiner makes it harder. Not only do managers have to spend valuable time on the whiner’s complaint, the negativity can infect the whole team.

That’s the situation manager Sara Blythe faced. One of her employees whined so much that she was always at the end of her rope.

Always something to complain about 

Sara sighed as she saw Mark heading for her office. here we go again, she thought.

Mark did excellent work, but no matter what she or the company did, Mark always found something to whine about.

‘Dumping on me again’

“So you’re dumping on me again,” Mark began the moment he entered.

“What are you complaining about now, Mark?” Sara asked.

“Jeremy’s carrying half the load I am, but you always give him someone to help him.”

“Mark, that’s an exaggeration. You and Jeremy have virtually the same workload,” Sara said. “Besides, it’s hard to compare.”

“Then why is Stacey moving over to help him out?” Mark asked.

“Look, Mark, we’re short on people right now,” Sara said. “We all have to suck it up. Jeremy’s project’s a top priority and we need to get it done as soon as possible. We need to stop whining and get it done.”

‘I’m not whining!’

“Hey, I’m not whining! It just seems that whenever we’re short-staffed, I’m the guy who gets short-changed,” Mark said.

“And every time you hire a new person, I get stuck with having to work with them.”

“By the time I train them so they know what they’re doing, you move them to work with someone else,” Mark said. “I’m tired of it.”

“Mark, I appreciate the fact that I’ve always been able to count on you to carry a heavy load during crunch periods,” Sara said. “All experienced people help with training.  In times like these I need my good people to step up.”

The big question

Sara was tired of Mark’s incessant complaining. And while he turned out good work, she was beginning to believe he could be more trouble than he was worth to the organization.

If you were in Sara’s situation, what would you do? One of the ideas below offered by our readers might provide you with some guidance.

Empathize, but urge employee to get back to work

If I were Sara, I’d first offer Mark some help with his work after Jeremy’s project was completed. Yet, if he continued to whine about his workload and everything else, I wouldn’t accept that as a manager. I’d say, “Mark, I understand your position, but because we’re short-staffed, you’re going to have to put forth the extra effort and deal with the way thing are for now.” If he continued to complain in the days ahead, I’d tell Mark, “You seem to be very unhappy here. If this job isn’t right for you, you may want to consider finding another position elsewhere.”

– Jennifer Rickenbaugh, Resident Manager, Glen Oaks Village Owners, Inc., Glen Oaks, NY 

Offer employee incentives to reward his hard work

Since Mark did excellent work, I’d try to come up with a way to motivate and reward hi with incentives. Not only does he do good work, he trains people. So i’d consider giving Mark a pay raise or bonus of some kind tolet him know we appreciate him and value his hard work. I’d also consider promoting him to team leader. Dedicated and skilled employees are hard to come by. So if you’re already short-staffed, you don’t want to lose your good people. You should try to do whatever you can to keep them.

 – Melaina Rhoney, Director of Quality Assurance, CNC/Access, Morganton, NC


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  1. Penny says

    It seems to me that Mark Whiner is feeling unappreciated. He is obviously skilled and talented because his hard work is rewarded with more work, and he is relied upon to train others. First, I would work to help turn his attitude from resentment to feeling appreciated. Stroke his ego by saying that he is the one we rely on to help train people quickly and correctly, and that his work load is high because he has proven he is capable of handling it. However, his complaining behaviour is beginning to tarnish his personal brand at work, as it appears to be whining (don’t accuse him of whining, just advise him that is how it is being perceived). As for his feedback as to what would help make the situation feel more manageable or fair. Sometimes little changes can be made with minimal cost or impact to the business, and provide significant improvement in employee morale. But you might not know unless you ask.

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