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Admin Pro Forum

Help! Someone on our team is on a runaway complaint binge

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Question: "We have someone on our admin team who seems to be a grievance addict. Whenever anything goes wrong or a system fails, she wants to assign blame and sit down with a manager to complain about it. Everything from our file system to the temperature in the office seems worthy to her of bothering someone so she can feel better. I don't think she really has anyone's best interest at heart; I suspect she's just one of those people who wants everything to be perfect for her and doesn't care how much tension her complaints cause. Any advice on how to deal with someone like that?" - Pat, State Archivist

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

MrsR November 29, 2018 at 4:24 pm

I worked with someone like this, and figured out that she complained because she wanted everything her way and people to order around. “The kitchen is a mess” (it wasn’t) we need to get it organized” Ask her her ideas on it, and suddenly it became your job to do it. She wouldn’t help. Someone gave her a perceived insult, (constructive criticism) a group meeting would be called. Question her on anything and suddenly the policy needed to be changed. Complaints can come disguised sometimes as much different agendas/angles. In my case it was a passive aggressive angle… Ugh.

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Sharon Bradley November 20, 2018 at 4:21 pm

You would have been the perfect person to train me with different types of situations that arise.

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Susan November 20, 2018 at 3:32 pm

A good rule of thumb for voicing a complaint is to do so only when you have an alternative solution. Complaining for the sake of complaining or deflecting blame is exhausting and ineffective. The manager who is at the receiving end of the complaints could put a stop to this and/or try to figure out if there is a larger, underlying issue. “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.” Maya Angelou said it well!

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Francis November 16, 2018 at 9:31 am

Someone like this can be completely exhausting, it’s true. I used to work with an “escalator” like this–someone who escalates every issue as high as they can take it and always wants to throw someone under the bus when things go wrong so blame doesn’t ever come their way. When your co-worker goes to a manager with a petty complaint, a good manager will call in everyone whom the complaint affects as well, and in the group discussion the complainer will find herself having to defend her choice to escalate the situation. Logical voices will win. It’s when she complains one-on-one that she has power because there are no dissenting voices there.

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Sheri November 16, 2018 at 8:45 am

I agree with Melissa. My reply always is, there are not to be any complaints, but solutions. If this bothers you, my suggestion would be to come up with a solution to that particular situation that you are having issues with. There could be others that are having the same feeling about it, but afraid to speak up. We will talk about your suggestions as a team and see how we can improve that situation.

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Melissa November 15, 2018 at 5:00 pm

Call her on it. Next time she assigns blame, send it right back to her and ask her how she would fix it. Or just say that her complaint is not helpful and suggest she come back with a solution, or tell her you don’t have time to listen right now, but you would be happy to discuss her suggestions at a set time (in a hour, after lunch, tomorrow morning). She may not realize that her comments are coming across as complaints, and if no one calls her on it, the problem will just continue. the fact people are listening to her gives her positive reinforcement to continue complaining.

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